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A CurtainUp Review
The Safety Net

Do you ever feel like we're just sitting next to each other on a plane, passing time, amusing each other, but when we land we'll go in opposite directions and never meet again? ---Sonya

Jason Pugatch & Tinashe Kajese  in Safety Net
Jason Pugatch & Tinashe Kajese
(Photo:Thomas Hinton)
It starts with the death of a troubled younger brother and ends with the death of a marriage-- both are linked by David (Jason Pugatch), the older brother and husband's inability to "be there" when he's desperately needed. David's emotional distance is evident in the very first scene, when David is getting ready to catch a flight from New York to Indianapolis and his brother Gene's funeral and his wife Sonya (Eva Kaminsky), per the above quoted question, gives voice her sense that their marriage has come to the point where there are too many emotinal spaces and disconnects in their togetherness.

Sonya's comment turns out to bookend the beginning and end of Christopher Kyle's play The Safety Net -- the image of her and David as passengers on the same plane but headed in different directions an omen the final scene in which they are both about to catch a plane -- but not the same one.

Kyle packs a lot of provocative questions in between those bookend scenes. For starters there's the rather predictable set-up of a mid-thirties lawyer who gets detoured from the partner track by the vague and not so vague feelings of guilt about his relationship with the adopted younger brother killed in an auto accident and the widening fault line in his marriage to a neurotic woman whose tensions are exacerbated by infertility and a ticking biological clock.

As it turns out this average Midwesterner's background isn't so average -- his mother chose to remain in the inner city when all her friends were moving to the suburbs but, even though she would have been happy to adopt a minority baby, never really socialized with the neighbors (a hint that the social service agency handling Gene's adoption may have been right not to reveal that he probably had a Black father), David being ten years older was given more than the usual big brother responsibility for Gene And, as David fulfilled his parents' high expectations, so Gene proved to be not just a disappointment but a nightmare child (drugs, jail, etc) to the point where the parents finally refused to bail him out and David lost touch with him.

Somehow, the funeral and a meeting with Gene's pregnant Black girlfriend LaShonda (Tinashe Kajese) unleashes all of David's confused and, until now, tightly reigned in emotions -- about his brother, his marriage, his career. To keep the dramatic pot boiling, Kyle has us wondering about his motivations for getting so involved with LaShonda. Is he falling in love with her, as suggested by Sonya and his high school friend Rick (the excellent Mark Setlock)? Is she in fact pregnant and, if so, was Gene the father (again suggested by Sonya who, incidentally, is Jewish and according to some of her speeches is not particularly open-minded about Blacks)? Can and should he track down Gene's birth mother in the interest of his brother's unborn child?

If David's life changing involvement with LaShonda seems more than a little manufactured, the play is interestingly structured, with good acting and smartly paced direction by Martha Banta. The Broken Watch Company's 44-seat theater-- newly named in honor of playwright Michael Weller is a testament to how much an imaginative set designer like J. Wiese can do with a small black box space, with walls ingeniously folding out furniture to suggest a variety of settings.

By Christopher Kyle
Directed by Martha Banta
Cast: Jason Pugatch, Eva Kaminsky, Mark Setlock, Tinashe Kajese, Maren Perry, Peggy Scott
Set Design: J. Wiese
Costume Design: Cora Levin
Lighting Design: Miriam Nilofa Crowe
Sound Design: Jill BC Duboff
Running time: 2 hours with an intermission.
Black Watch Company, Michael Weller Theatre, 311 W. 43rd St., 6th Floor, 212/397-2018--
From 9/16/05 to 10/02/05; opening 9/22/05
Mondays at 8pm, Wed-Friday at 8p, Saturdays at 3pm and 8pm, Sundays at 7pm
Tickets: $19
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer based on September 27th performance
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