The Invitation

Brian Parks
Word Monger Productions
Ohio Theatre, New York City
(2008)

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How can a play recall Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Titus Andronicus and more, and still fall flat? Watch The Invitation and find out.

The play, which shows audiences a decidedly macabre dinner in a swanky city apartment, captures in its first half exactly the feeling of going for dinner at a friend’s only to get caught between two warring spouses. In fact, it’s a pity it doesn’t do more than capture this extreme and unpleasant feeling with bitchy, concept-dropping dialogue, as it would have made for interesting theatre if the domestic politics that brought David (David Calvitto) and Marian (Katie Honaker) together had been examined and deconstructed. Instead, this team has created a production which seems to owe its existence to the well-connectedness of its production team rather than its own merit. It’s difficult to believe that The Invitation would have made it to the professional stage as the first play of an unestablished name.

In the first half of the show, we meet David, Marian, and their dinner guests. Social cruelties are exchanged, and, as dinner wears on, Marian launches into bigoted diatribes against “Blacks” and “The Poor” (actually, she often assumes they are one and the same), so that by the time we hit act two we are relieved and glad to see her go. Without implanting any sympathetic qualities in his female lead, the misogynistic bent of the text is hard to overlook. After she is brutally murdered, we almost cheer for David – only to realize that with Marian gone, all we have to look forward to in the second half is three people covered in very fake-looking blood, screaming variations on “YOU KILLED HER!”

Compelling theatre? I think not. All I felt compelled to do was walk out. Pity that wasn’t possible.

Aside from the heavy-handed plot and fantastical murdering-and-feeding-to-the-garbage-disposal, there is not much to hold this “revenge comedy” (Um, what is he seeking revenge for? His own inability to grow a pair and leave his wife? Earning $280K/year he can’t get a one bedroom in Brooklyn? And which bit, other than the odd throwaway line, is meant to be comedic?) together. The acting is flat from all players, with brief exceptions from Paul Urcioli and Leslie Farrell. The dialogue is pretentious and tedious, and does little to advance the story for the first quarter of the play.

To top it all off, the finale consists of an eerie apparition; whether a reference to No Exit or Blythe Spirit is hard to tell.

Either way, when considering this Invitation, it’s better to send your regrets.

Reviewer: Rachel Lynn Brody