The Babylon Line OFF-BROADWAY REVIEWS

Photo: Sara Krulwich
  • NY TIMES

  • TIME OUT

Opening Night:
December 5, 2016
Closing:
January 22, 2017

Theater: Mitzi E. Newhouse / 150 West 65th Street, New York, NY, 10023

Synopsis: 

Levittown, 1967. It’s the first night of adult-ed Creative Writing class in a classroom at the local high school. The teacher, Aaron Port, lives in Greenwich Village and reverse commutes once a week on the Long Island Rail Road’s Babylon line to Wantagh. His students are a mixed bag: Frieda Cohen, Anna Cantor and Midge Braverman, housewives all, embrace each other on arrival, and update their running checklists on each other’s kids, husbands and lawns. Their opening gambit is to tell Aaron in no uncertain terms that they are only there because French Cooking and Flower Arranging are full. The two men in the class, Jack Hassenpflug and Marc Adams keep mostly to themselves.

One final student, Joan Dellamond, rushes in late –- but she actually does intend to be there. She is a housewife, but not like the others. Living on Long Island with no kids, she cannot be in the same conversation with those women. Nor does she seem to want to be. And yet, she does seek connection. Maybe this class will bring her, and Aaron, something that neither quite expects.

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  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF The Babylon Line

    Waiting to Connect in Levittown in ‘The Babylon Line’

    Ben Brantley

    December 5, 2016: Finding a voice as a writer often involves much throat clearing — false starts, rough drafts, crazy riffs and paralyzing stretches of analysis. Such self-consciousness occupies a lot (and I mean a lot) of stage time in “The Babylon Line,” Richard Greenberg’s new play, which opened on Monday at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center. In a way, that’s appropriate. Mr. Greenberg’s latest work unfolds within a creative-writing class, taught by a not-so-young man, Aaron Port (Josh Radnor), who has an affliction he would really prefer you not define as writer’s block. Call him instead, he insists rather winningly, “a patient worker.” Unfortunately, authorial throat clearing — the kind that can try a theatergoer’s patience — seems to be the style as well as the subject of this unresolved comedy. Though it offers choice examples of the off-kilter lyricism that is Mr. Greenberg’s signature, “The Babylon Line” feels like a gifted writer’s notebook, stuffed with beguiling phrases and ideas still waiting to cohere into a compelling shape.

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  • TIME OUT NEW YORK REVIEW OF The Babylon Line

    Richard Greenberg commutes to 1967 Long Island on The Babylon Line

    David Cote

    December 5, 2016: If your play is narrated by a “promising” author teaching fiction in night school, you might want to pepper the script with passages of sparkling prose. No worries there: The Babylon Line is by Richard Greenberg; barbed repartee, shiny epigrams, and baroque arias of loss and longing all come with the territory. There’s bad writing, as well: awkward attempts at literary self-expression by attendees of the class shakily run by Aaron Port (Josh Radnor). But those blunt, unlovely fragments mainly set off the flowering talent of Joan Dellamond (Elizabeth Reaser), a poetic soul out of place in ticky-tacky suburban Long Island in 1967. Aaron commutes once a week from Greenwich Village to grimly instruct a motley group of adults. His talent-challenged charges include three chatty Jewish housewives (Randy Graff, Maddie Corman and a roaring Julie Halston), a WWII vet who wakes up screaming (Frank Wood) and a cheerfully blank young man (Michael Oberholtzer). Joan is late to the first class and immediately fascinates Aaron, her Southern lilt and dreamy affect marking her as a romantic outsider. Soon he learns she’s trapped in a bad marriage, and Levittown anomie both stokes and stymies her creative impulses. As Joan self-diagnoses: “I’m suffering from Acute Repressed Graphomania!”

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