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Theater review: 'Side Effects' -- 2 stars

Side Effects

Side Effects Photo Credit: handout

Side Effects

2 stars

Sequels to plays and musicals are usually not a good idea - the results tend to be even worse than film sequels. Some well-known examples include "Annie 2: Miss Hannigan's Revenge," "Bring Back Birdie" and "Love Never Dies," Andrew Lloyd Webber's recently penned continuation of "Phantom of the Opera."

Michael Weller's new play "Side Effects," when combined with his earlier works "Fifty Words" and "Do Not Disturb," completes a trilogy of dramas about contemporary marriage. While technically connected to "Fifty Words" through a small plot point, "Side Effects" deals with a different couple whose marriage is also on the verge of collapse.

In "Fifty Words," Adam and Jan (originally played by Norbert Leo Butz and Elizabeth Marvel) were home alone together while their son was at his first sleep-over. During the course of the evening, it was revealed that Adam was having an affair with a married woman from the Midwest named Lindy.

"Side Effects," which is about Lindy (Joely Richardson) and her husband Hugh (Cotter Smith), reveals how their marriage is even worse. While Hugh is a businessman readying for a run as a political candidate, Lindy is a bipolar academic who has been acting increasingly unstable of late.

After a brief vacation, tensions between the pair flare up. Hugh even overhears Lindy speaking with Adam on the phone, revealing her adultery.

Although the plays are similar in construction and theme, "Fifty Words" made for a far more believable and emotional look into a contemporary marriage. "Side Effects" just feels like a contemporary takeoff of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"

Lindy's behavioral issues more or less take over the play, and Weller's short scenes do not flow well in terms of chronology. It is also difficult to understand why Lindy and Hugh got married in the first place, as there is virtually no affection between them. Nor do they display any concern for their teenage sons.

As directed by David Auburn, Richardson stresses Lindy's jittery and hyper behavior, while Smith appears as tense as can be. It seems as though they are overplaying their characters and the tension between them in order to compensate for the play's shortcomings.


If you go: "Side Effects" plays at the Lucille Lortel Theatre through July 3. 121 Christopher St., 212-279-4200, mcctheater.org.

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