The New York Idea
Langdon Mitchell’s long-forgotten play “The New York Idea” — about the newfangled trend of divorce and featuring a headstrong woman who smokes cigars, owns a horse and throws caution to the wind — may very well have been shocking when it premiered back in 1906.
David Auburn’s sleek adaptation of the four-act play does not update its time or setting, but instead performs some cosmetic surgery by cutting a few characters and condensing the plot. Unfortunately, the end result turns out to be so pointless and dull that you’d think the play would be better off lost in the archives at New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
The title refers to the supposedly unconventional “New York Idea” of marriage. It begins in an upscale drawing room in Washington Square, where the butler announces the arrival of each person and the older women scornfully gossip about the main characters’ unconventionality and lack of class.
Divorcee Cynthia Karslake is on the verge of marrying Judge Philip Phillimore, a dull but dependable chap. All hell breaks loose when both of their colorful ex-spouses turn up. Karslake’s ex-husband has even brought her prized race horse along, which motivates her to ditch the wedding and head off to the races instead.
But Mark Brokaw’s production comes off as hackneyed, uninspired and painfully unfunny. It moves at such a slow pace that any opportunity for comedy falls flat.
Moreover, the stage at the Lucille Lortel Theatre is too small.
The cast, which lacks elegance and period style, comes off as merely amateurish. Jeremy Shamos, a fine actor who has shined in numerous Off-Broadway productions, is completely miscast as the playboy ex-husband.
What’s most perplexing, however, is the fact that Auburn, who won a Pulitzer Prize for “Proof,” had nothing better to do than adapt this utterly uninteresting 105-year-old play.
If you go
“The New York Idea” plays at the Lucille Lortel Theatre through Feb. 26. 121 Christopher St., 212-279-4200, atlantictheater.org.