This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001

23Sep/19

SUNDAY

(photo by Monique Carboni)

A group of close friends gather for their Sunday book club in world premiere at the Atlantic (photo by Monique Carboni)

Atlantic Theater Company
Linda Gross Theater
336 West 20th St. between Eighth & Ninth Aves.
Tuesday - Sunday through October 13, $66.50-$86.50
866-811-4111
atlantictheater.org

The first rule of book club should be: You do not talk about book club. Tony winner Jack Thorne has followed up his massive hit, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, with the significantly smaller scale Sunday, an intimate drama, directed by Obie winner Lee Sunday Evans, set on a Sunday when a group of close friends meet for their book club. Self-obsessed millennials Alice (Ruby Frankel), Marie (Sadie Scott), Jill (Juliana Canfield), Keith (Christian Strange), and Milo (Zane Pais) have gathered in Jill and Marie’s cluttered New York City apartment supposedly to discuss Anne Tyler’s Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant but, much to Alice’s consternation, begin by talking about just about anything except the Pulitzer Prize winner’s classic work of fiction. Tyler’s book details a family’s survival after a father’s desertion; theatergoers may wish there were more than children in this narrative as well. It’s a memory play narrated by Alice, who at times sits in a high balcony in the back brick wall, watching the action as we are, sharing details about the characters and telling us about the “most defining moments” of their lives. “Marie is now twenty-four but everyone thinks she’s twenty-two,” Alice says. “She had to take two years off from college and rather than remember those years she’s decided they didn’t exist. She likes books, chicken, alcohol, her roommate, and the possibilities if not the reality of New York.”

(photo by Monique Carboni)

Downstairs neighbor Bill (Maurice Jones) shares his concerns with Marie (Sadie Scott) in Jack Thorne’s Sunday (photo by Monique Carboni)

This kids are definitely home alone, and not really adults: Shortly before the book club meeting begins, Marie’s downstairs neighbor, an odd, awkward older man named Bill (Maurice Jones), comes by to tell her to keep the music down because he needs to get a good night’s sleep before work, something Marie wouldn’t know about, since her recent internship ended without the offer of a full-time job. Once the gang is together they discuss morality, trust, toxic masculinity, sincerity, sex, and whether they would relive their childhoods, which leads to some brutal battling. But it’s all nonsense spouted by self-absorbed twentysomethings wrestling with personal identity and self-pity, and it’s rarely dramatically compelling. The narrative occasionally stops, Masha Tsimring’s lighting shifts, and the characters break out into stylized dance movements choreographed by Evans to music by Daniel Kluger. It’s actually more exciting to see them facing their inner angst and demons this way than listening to them drone on about life and literature, which they do eventually get to. Brett J. Banakis’s set is centered by a mountainous wall of books, from Danielle Steel to David Foster Wallace; it also includes a working sink and toilet. The two scenes with Scott (Downtown Race Riot, CRSHD) and Jones (The Lifespan of a Fact, Linda) are the best in the play, especially the latter one, which has gorgeous moments, but Thorne (King Kong, The End of History) and Evans (Dance Nation, In the Green) can’t quite figure out how to conclude the play, which opened tonight at the Atlantic and runs through October 13. Of course, the second rule of book club is also: You do not talk about book club. And I’ve already said enough.

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