by Harvey Perr
published January 9, 2009
now playing Off Broadway at the Flea
through January 25
A.R. Gurney’s A Light Lunch takes place at
a Sardi’s-Lite restaurant filled with Paul Howard’s tantalizing caricatures of the downtown elite and would be as comfortably ensconced at
a dinner theater as it is at the Flea Theater. In truth, the play is amiable enough, but it is such lightweight entertainment on every
level that it seems fair to just dismiss it, recognize that A.R. Gurney’s reputation, which Gurney himself has a lot of fun with here (and
which may be the most salient quality of his new play), will not rest on the success or failure of A
Light Lunch. He has already contributed far too many wonderful and meaningful plays to the history of American dramatic literature to
be written off just because he is having a little silly fun with the idea of a literary agent sparring with a spy from the Bush
administration who is trying to get the rights to an unfinished anti-Bush play – that a playwright named A.R. Gurney is writing – in order
to suppress its production.
Since Gurney has already written about his feelings regarding the mess Bush has made of the orderly world Gurney’s people usually
inhabit, A Light Lunch might just as well be called
“Getting A Few Last Licks In On The Subject of George W. Bush.” If it had developed into either the romantic comedy it starts out to be, or
the political satire it wants to be, it would have, either way, become predictable, so Gurney, whom one suspects understood this all too
clearly, turns it instead into an exercise in Playwriting 101, complete with a deus ex machina, in the form of the boyfriend of a pretty
funny but awfully cliché-written Brooklyn waitress, and this boyfriend actually explains to us just what a deus ex machina is.
It’s all done fairly well, with some neat and unobtrusive direction by Jim Simpson and some lively playing by some of The Bats,
the regular acting company of The Flea Theater, but this is pretty mild stuff. Not to belabor
the point, but this is, indeed, very light.
harveyperr @ stageandcinema.com