Apparently Jo Darum — the lead character in Nick Jones’s satiric play Verité — is unfamiliar with the so-called “Chinese Curse”: May you live in interesting times. After a rather unorthodox publishing house offers Jo $50,000 to pen her memoir, the housewife and mother decides she must start living a life worth writing about. The results are by turns funny, unexpected and chilling.
In less assured hands, Jo’s surreal journey would be too preposterous to be engaging. Thankfully the appealing Anna Camp’s experience includes turns in Pitch Perfect, True Blood and Equus, giving her all the tools necessary to make us connect emotionally with the play’s enthusiastic if naive heroine. Unfortunately, while some of the scenes crackle, the dialogue is too thin in places to fully support the bizarre premise. At one point Ebon Moss-Bachrach as Winston, who may or may not have gone to high school with Jo, is given a speech that resembles those dreadful scenes at the end of Perry Mason in which all is revealed in a Jamesian level of detail. The woman next to me literally started snoring.
Director Moritz von Stuelpnagel’s skill is tested by the unusual dimensions of the Claire Tow stage. The newest space at Lincoln Center is shallow and long, so those at the end of each row crane their necks while seeing too much of the actors’ backs. Despite this challenge, Mr. Stuelpnagel and his cast deftly handle the rapid changes in tone. Sharp pacing, terrific timing and clever sound cues are clearly in evidence. Furthermore, the LCT3 is to be praised for offering this offbeat experience for $20 and bringing a diverse audience into their theater.
Verité runs through March 15 at the Claire Tow theater in Lincoln Center. For tickets and information, visit http://www.lct.org/shows/verite/