By Ilaria Cutolo
How To Find a Husband in 37 Years stars JJ Pyle as herself. This is a one-woman show about a tired and disgruntled middle-aged woman playing back memories of days and lovers gone by while on a road trip with her father through rural Indiana. It was 55 minutes of a woman telling a half-hearted story that wasn’t very interesting. All I know is that she had a string of uneventful romances with men, none of which I could differentiate from the next. She took us from a missed flight to India to a pivot trip to Indiana to visit her family. Memories of high school and former high school boyfriends come sweeping in, along with a tennis-playing boyfriend, a Someday Maybe boyfriend, and a Latin lover. I might be missing a couple.
Her characters, mainly her exes, lack definition. I could not tell one from the other. With the rapid pace at which she moves from one person to the next, jumping from one scene to the next, I almost got whiplash. First, she’s in a car with her dad, and the next minute she’s at a cafe or a bar with a former boyfriend (she plays both). Then we jump right back to her surly dad telling a story about his many failed marriages. He ends each sentence with a cackly chuckle, a sound only a 1950s Television dad could make.
All around the performance felt forced and the scenes merged into one fuzzy lukewarm mess like when you mix too many paints and you end up with a beige-brown. The writing and the acting felt tepid, at best, with a mild dose of quirky and heart-warming.
Most of us have been through failed relationships, but what makes this show worth the price of admission? After the show, I couldn’t help but think this was a mediocre attempt at Flea Bag, far from giving us the cringe-worthy and the clever. There is potential, but the delivery just isn’t quite there. I did laugh at the part when Pyle, playing her hyper-stressed sister, abruptly drops her baby (a doll) on the floor as Pyle nonchalantly moves on to the next character. I would have liked to have seen more of that kind of humour through out the show.
I left this show not sure that I had learned anything about this person. She is neither despicable nor very funny nor particularly likable. It would have helped had she been at least one of those things. Her character is cute and sincere, and her work is well-intentioned, but it just didn’t have the impact I was expecting. Is she still in pursuit of a husband and does she need help finding one? I was waiting for the husband part, but that never came. My date for the show said it best, “It felt like it wanted to be Eat, Pray, Love except that there was no eating, praying, or loving.”
On a technical note, the backdrop screen videos of emails, texts, locations, etc. did not serve the play and instead were a distraction.
I suggest Pyle go back to the drawing board, flesh out her characters, and give us something we can sink our teeth into.
How To Find a Husband in 37 Years (Or Longer…) – Written by JJ Pyle; Directed by Mark Cirnigliaro.
With: JJ Pyle
The production team includes Alessandra Cronin (production design), Jane Guyer Fujita (voice coach) and Sloane Fischer (stage manager).The show runs July 11, 13, 18 & 20 at 8:30pm at 59E59, located at 59 East 59th Street between Park and Madison Avenues. Running time is 1 hour. Tickets are $15, available at www.59e59.org