"Poor Behavior," yet another comedic drama where two married couples yell at each other for two hours or so ("God of Carnage," anyone?), marks the 15th play by Theresa Rebeck to be produced in New York, a huge accomplishment made even more significant by the underrepresentation of female playwrights in general.
That being said, "Poor Behavior" is not an especially good play, just a very loud one. And to be perfectly frank, Rebeck's other plays, a few of which have been produced on Broadway in recent years, have also come off as undeveloped, with characters often serving as mouthpieces for her point of view. Even her best work ("The Scene," "Seminar") lacks substance and sort of peters out halfway.
And let's not even get started on the Broadway-themed TV series "Smash," which Rebeck created. (In her defense, she was fired before the start of the even worse second season.)
"Poor Behavior" has more of a generic scenario than an actual plot. Peter and Ella have invited Ian and Maureen over to their comfy country home for a short getaway from the city. After some time and a few drinks, the question of adultery comes up and tensions flare. Much of it is consumed by unoriginal, uninteresting debate over what's good or bad.
At least Rebeck gets a laugh out of gourmet muffins, not unlike how a box of wine popped out of the fridge in her play "Dead Accounts."
Director Evan Cabnet, who has done fine work with other contemporary dramas, seems to have urged the four-member cast to play up their emotions, perhaps to compensate for the emptiness of the play.
Brian Avers stands out as the sinister, self-centered Ian, while Heidi Armbruster is too tentative as Ian's neurotic, out-of-control wife.
If you go: ‘Poor Behavior’ plays through Sept. 7 at the Duke. 229 W. 42nd St., primarystages.com