Provocateur-playwright Neil LaBute, long associated with the Off-Broadway company MCC Theater in the West Village, brings his bruising brand of modern relationship dramas (i.e. "The Shape of Things," "Reasons to Be Pretty") to midtown with "The Way We Get By," a static, curiously empty play produced by Second Stage with screen star Amanda Seyfried and Thomas Sadoski making up the two-person cast.
Set in a posh New York apartment, it's the early morning and Doug (Sadoski) has just left the bedroom and is trying to be quiet while he takes a swig of SmartWater and turns on the television. Nevertheless, he ends up waking Beth (Seyfried). It appears as if they just had sex for the first time, but barely know each other.
Sadoski and Seyfried maintain the same exaggerated poses throughout their long-winded, awkward conversation, with Sadoski looking freaked-out and scared and Seyfried acting accusatory, angry and neurotic.
For instance, after they start fooling around again, he stops her, so she demands an explanation. Is he more worried about his vintage "Star Wars" T-shirt than her? At another point, she starts questioning him about who exactly accompanied him the last time he shopped at American Apparel.
There is a plot twist which reveals that their relationship is actually quite complicated, but it adds little to this 90-minute play, which has all the sustenance of 90 empty calories. It appears as if LaBute intended it to serve as the template for a meandering discussion about sex and societal expectations.
Under Leigh Silverman's ("Violet") direction, Sadoski (who appeared in numerous plays before gaining a lead role on HBO's "The Newsroom") and Seyfried (who is making her New York stage debut) deliver over-the-top performances that reflect the one-dimensional natures of their characters.
If you go: "The Way We Get By" plays through June 14 at Second Stage. 305 W 43rd St., 2st.com.