Studio Theatre, Washington, D.C.
Annie Baker is the anti–Aaron Sorkin, said Peter Marks in The Washington Post. The characters she invents never express themselves in the long, expertly crafted diatribes or confessionals of Sorkin’s screenplays. In fact, the three in this “offbeat, slow-cooking, and ultimately touching” drama often don’t speak at all. KJ and Jasper, two deadbeat 30-somethings who hang out behind a Vermont coffeehouse, mostly pass the time mumbling, ingesting a few controlled substances, and staring into space. Sporadic bursts of dialogue are followed by long silences—“some of the longest I ever remember experiencing in a play.” These can be a little unnerving, but they’re not out of place. It’s clear that for the aimless souls onstage, the universe of potential conversation topics has shrunk.
Despite the languorous pace, this wonderfully acted production will hold your attention, said Chris Klimek in the Washington City Paper. That’s no mean feat, since “Baker’s mumblecore dialogue is not remotely the sort of writing that does an actor’s work for him.” Brian Miskell is winning as a nervous teenage barista who becomes captivated by the duo’s ramblings. Peter O’Connor all but inhabits Jasper, a lover of Charles Bukowski poems who dreams of writing his own novel. Yet Scot McKenzie is the standout. As KJ, a former math major who left college after a mental breakdown, McKenzie gives his character a rich inner life, even when KJ is lying “motionless and mute” or “singing tuneless songs about calculus.” Rarely has unintelligible speech been so compelling.