Third time’s a third charm for Rosenblatt and Flea


Play’s possible suicides might inspire ‘laughter tempered with some genuine fear’

Political essayist Roger Rosenblatt puts an Edward Albee-style twist on aging, mental illness and discontent with modern culture in this ambitious new one act.

The Oldsmobiles — a married couple played with bleak sincerity by Emmy nominee Richard Masur and Tony nominee Alice Playten — are two down-on-their-luck people who’ve been married for several decades. Fed up with life, they sit on top of the Manhattan Bridge. Ready to jump into the East River, they look back on their life, argue, and wonder if they should continue living.

Rosenblatt’s dialogue is loaded with jet-black humor. In one of the most effective scenes, they talk about “death cats” in assisted-living facilities (animals used to provide therapy to elderly patients). When Mrs. Oldsmobile says the cats are an omen that someone is near death, her husband responds, “I wonder if the old people can sense when the cat’s about to die. Creeps me out.”

Richard Masur — best known for playing David on the sitcom “One Day at a Time” — is superb as the overbearing, neurotic Mr. Oldsmobile. As he babbles about everything from Vietnam to education and the decline of modern civilization, Masur — with his staccato delivery of dialogue — paints a manic portrait of a man who has lost all hope. Broadway veteran Alice Playten is the voice of reason. Her character has doubts, wondering how suicide will devastate their children. Playten is especially touching, with her emotional meltdowns and aptly nervous stage presence — consistently convincing as a woman who vacillates about whether suicide may be a copout.

Jerad Schomer’s simplistic set, a backdrop of the Manhattan Bridge, is perfect for such an intimate show. Sound designers Daniel Kluger and Mikaal Sulaiman add great touches; TV news helicopters hovering above the Oldsmobiles, and policemen, tourists, and children shouting offstage to try and keep the couple from jumping into the water.

Not all the dialogue works here, but Rosenblatt’s absurdist theme remains potent and thought-provoking. Jim Simpson directs the two actors with sharp pacing, keeping the action moving swiftly and humorously toward its surprise ending.