When you walk into 59E59 Theater B, for Don’t You F**king Say a Word, it’s obvious we are entering a stage of battle. Sure, it’s a tennis court, but it is also a pit – more like an ancient Roman Arena that the city park. So it is a little disconcerting that the first entrants aren’t the tennis players, but the women in their lives, dressed in distinctly non-athletic ware. And thus Don’t You F**king Say a Wordstarts off with the audience a little off balance.
The amazingly talented actresses Jennifer Lim and Jeanine Serralles are a marvel as the female life partners of the tennis players. They start by laying out the organization of the play for us. These two women are reminiscing, with each other and the audience, about an incident that occurred between their tennis-obsessed men. They are trying to understand what happened that humid day that set off a chain of events that ended a friendship. In doing this, they are trying to “understand men”, what drives them –particularly what drives the impulses that make them crazy. Of course (and a little too obviously), their “investigation” tells us more about their interactions and insecurities than their spouses. But that is a pretty minor problem overall.
L-R: Jennifer Lim, Jeanine Serralles, Bhavesh Patel, and Michael Braun in DON’T YOU F**KING SAY A WORD at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Hunter Canning
They women are coyly polite and gracious, but underneath there is a competitive edge they can’t quite shake. They try to openly discuss “the incident”, but they also are protective of their partners, viewing the history through the lens of love and life choices.
The tennis players are Bhavesh Patel and Michael Braun; men who are approaching their forties having accomplished almost none of their goals. Both are highly competent actors, but don't get a chance to move beyond caricature until very late in the show. They are a type most men know. Growing up, they were probably intimidated in school and so they have overcompensated via sports after high school.
And just when the show gets to be too much, too pat and too expository - the action moves towards a more traditional setting, a dinner party. With this change, Don’t You F**king Say A Word shines anew. It is avery enjoyable evening of theater.
Writer Andy Bragen and Director Lee Sunday Evans have done a great job wringing out the most from their characters and situations before moving on and changing up the pace of the piece. Because of their excellent work, it really does play like a tennis match, a long give and take capped by a quick and eventful tie-breaker.
Don't You F**king Say a Word | Playwright: Andy Bragen | Director: Lee SundayEvans | Cast: Michael Braun, Jennifer Lim, Bhavesh Patel, Jeanine Serralles