By Tulis McCall

Well, this play is pretty much as the title suggests.  It is, however, in no way simple or direct.

Miriam (Cynthia Nixon) and her son Naphtali (Taylor Trensch) have what could be referred to as a strained relationship.  Strained to the point of busting wide open except for the fact that the two are wearing emotional corsets pulled so tight that even the laces refuse to budge – until they do.

Miriam is a performance artist, which, in a way means that nothing she does is to be trusted.   The philosophy here is that everything, EVERYTHING, if seen in the right light, can and should be considered art.  In that case, the artist herself, if seen in the right light, can be forgiven anything.  Even disappearing for 7 years.

The fact that we know about this disappearance in no way hinders our journey through these people’s loves and lives.  Naphtali is an adult when Miriam blows town for parts unknown so there is no child abandonment issue.  It’s just the regular every-day abandonment issues.  While she is gone Naphtali carries on with old friends and new.  As a young gay man, released from his mother’s overseeing he experiments with sex and drugs paying little or no attention to the fact that HIV is still a thing.  The play takes place 2009-2016 with an unexplained exception in the Epilogue.

Nixon plays not only the mother but all the other characters as well (her portrayal of the teenage manicurist Kaitlyn is brilliant) and the press release tells us that Naphtali sees his mother’s face in everyone.  This was lost on me.

What worked were the scenes between mother and son.  As her absence stretched out the son became someone over whom she could rule, yet she never gave up trying.  He emerges and we see the cocoon falling away.  Both the playwright, Jordan Seavey, and the director, Scott Elliot, have created a play with no thru-line contained in the text. This is both a help and a hindrance. The Mother-Son scenes ground us in that emotional cobweb.  The scenes with Naphtali and the other men are not chronologically laid out with the result that we lose the thru-line more than once. The use of live video is odd and  gratuitous, drawing attention off the story to the mode of storytelling.  The result is a jumble dotted with more than a a few riveting moments.  These two actors make a great team and are its greatest strength.

Photo by Monique Carboni

You will have to pay attention when watching this play.  It is a tale of narcissism, guilt, determination, resignation and hope.  Life.  Still, I was never drawn in the way I wanted to be.  It was as if I were invited to the party and then left cooling my heels in the entryway while I waited to figure out the logistics of the event.

Seven Year Disappear by Jordan Seavey, Directed by Scott Elliot

WITH Cynthia Nixon and Taylor Trensch.

Scenic Design by Derek McLane, Costume Design by Qween Jean, Lighting Design by Jeff Croiter, Sound Design by Rob Milburn & Michael Bodeen and Projection Design John Narun.

The Pershing Square Signature Center through March 31.  For tickets, info & more: thenewgroup.org.