How best to encourage you to see The Roundabout Theatre Company’s imperfect but likable production of Simon Gray’s 1984 play THE COMMON PURSUIT? “Let me count the ways” would seem appropriate as Mr. Gray’s lofty, idealistic and sometimes long-winded play deals with poetry or rather the publication of a new magazine “The Common Pursuit” featuring poems with lofty and elitist intentions by a group of Cambridge chums.
These retro “friends” have their own sit-com going on here with enough plot twists and revelations to fill a season full of episodes with real laughs as opposed to a superimposed laugh track following our idealistic comrades over a period of twenty years.
We have Stuart Thorne (Josh Cooke making a really decent and impressive New York stage debut) whose main desire is to create this new magazine of poetry, that is after having a quickie with his beloved Marigold Watson (Kristen Bush – appearing as a level headed full on supporter somewhat like a young Emma Thompson who is the only cast member to mature through the years with the help of hair styles and clothing).
The nervous, cat loving Martin Musgrove (Jacob Fishel showing great empathy in Act II) just happens to be rich and has no talent as a writer but has the smarts and the money to start up the project.
An excellent Tim McGeever as the “philosophical poet” Humphry Taylor who has an above everyone else sort of attitude with dry and wry humor has come to retrieve his work as he no longer deems it worthwhile for publication.
There is the womanizing Peter Whetworth “Captain Marvel” (Kieran Campion filling those shoes admirably) as he uses his friends as alibis to run around with an assortment of women while eventually marrying the “ghastly” Erica, having four kids and then falling in love with Jane or was it Joan? I’d love to meet Erica.
Finally we have the over the top comic Nick Finchling (Lucas Near-Verbrugghe) a disheveled, chain smoking drunk who coughs and acts as though he were Black Stash in Peter and the Starcatcher.
Did I mention that they are all ultra intelligent and bent on showing us that they are?
THE COMMON PURSUIT is ultimately about choices. Choices that we all have to make. Life doesn’t play out as we planned and we have to adapt and adjust and choose which path to follow. Writing for art or for profit. Keeping the dream or dropping it. Be an elitist or be successful. Cambridge vs. Oxford. Vivaldi vs. Bach. All interesting stuff nicely directed by Moises Kaufman on another superb set by Derek McLane.
Through July 29th – Roundabout at Laura Pels Theatre Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre. www.roundabouttheatre.org PHOTO: Joan Marcus
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