Friday, September 21, 2012
Take a bow
Congratulations to the If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet company on a successful opening night.
The raw pain of a teenage girl is not an easy thing to witness, and scribe Nick Payne makes no attempt to sugarcoat the anguish in his blistering domestic drama, "If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet." But a compassionate production from ardent director Michael Longhurst -- one with committed perfs from selfless thesps Jake Gyllenhaal, Brian F. O'Byrne, and Michelle Gomez and a brave turn from young Annie Funke -- can provide the dubious comfort of a bloodletting. ...
The only person with the slightest inkling of what it feels like to be an outcast like Anna is George's younger brother, Terry, a jumped-up, juiced-up, totally screwed-up good-for-nothing with the good sense to know that he's good for nothing. Terry has a keen and incredibly snide sense of humor as far as his brother is concerned. "How about weed?" he asks, when George delivers one of his endlessly boring lectures about the environmental impact of petrol and cheeseburgers and lattes and everything else under the sun. "What's the carbon footprint of a joint?"
No wonder Anna loves her bad-boy uncle, as do we all. They speak the same language because they feel the same pain. In Gyllenhaal's wonderfully manic, crazy-like-a-fox perf, it's fairly obvious that Terry, no less than Anna, is one of those endangered species being pushed off the edge of the planet. Unless, of course, they manage to spit out the indigestible garbage that people like George keep trying to shove down their throats. ...
It’s raining buckets onstage in Nick Payne’s “If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet.”
No amount of slosh can dampen Jake Gyllenhaal’s U.S. stage debut as a foul-mouth prodigal who wreaks havoc on his brother’s troubled home. It’s a free-wheeling performance of high comic energy and rude bombast unmatched since Mark Rylance masticated the scenery in another British import, “Jerusalem.”
Like that play, “If There Is” has a ramshackle plot and a lot on its mind, the disparate elements of which float maddeningly in and out of view over the course of one long act. ...
New York Times
Amiable, scruffy, erratic, well-intentioned, full of promise and self-sabotaging — such is the nature of Terry, the stoner character with which the movie star Jake Gyllenhaal has chosen to make his very creditable New York stage debut. Such is also the nature, for better or worse, of the play in which he appears. ...
It’s the relationship between Terry and Anna, though, that gives the play its strongest emotional heat. When Anna is suspended from school (for head-butting another student), Terry, who has shown up on his big brother’s doorstep, effectively becomes Anna’s nanny for a couple of weeks. And the production daringly flirts with a nascent — and somehow natural — eroticism between the affection-starved girl and her alarmed uncle.
Onstage, Mr. Gyllenhaal — who has starred in genre-spanning films ranging from “Brokeback Mountain” to “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” — is winningly at ease as he plays an uncomfortable character. His crablike sideways walk, his coherent mumbling (in a convincingly sustained British accent) and his shy yet confrontational gaze all speak persuasively of Terry’s uneasiness in navigating the new terrain of delayed-onset adulthood. ...
As a portrait of familial ambivalence, “If There Is” doesn’t approach the touching verisimilitude of “You Can Count On Me.” But it’s a perfectly palatable hors d’oeuvre in that it anticipates greater things to come from Mr. Payne, who has obviously since found the “it” that makes a first-rate playwright.
What if you're drowning in misery and nobody seems to care? The despair of being bullied is one theme of Nick Payne's clever, edgy domestic drama, "If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet," about a British family that knows it's falling apart but can't seem to take action to stop it. ...
Without leaking too many details, wonderfully unexpected things happen with water and props in director Michael Longhurst's exciting, inventive staging. A delicate waterfall and a pool provide dramatic metaphors for the overwhelming unhappiness building within the central character, an overweight and bullied teenage girl named Anna whose family seems remarkably unable to figure out how to help her. ...
Anna's uncle Terry is played with zeal by Jake Gyllenhaal, extremely effective in his New York stage debut. George's charming but aimless younger brother bursts in on the family after a few years away. Gyllenhaal crackles with self-loathing and anger, as Terry hopes to mend a romance he destroyed. Terry takes a kindly interest in Anna and their friendship blossoms, but then he gets bogged down in typical poor decision-making, leaving Anna more despondent than before. ...
The combined inability of these three adults to understand and act upon the depth of Anna's growing misery sparks a cataclysmic situation, much like CO2 piling up in our atmosphere.
Kudos to Beowulf Boritt for set design, and to the whole production crew for creating major watery magic. Whether this family can pull themselves out of their troubled waters is another matter, but they're worth rooting for in this complex, compelling drama.
It’s clear that Nick Payne has a keen understanding of the minefield that is the human heart. His “If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet” offers a rigorously unsentimental yet deeply empathetic portrait of a loving family in crisis. Director Michael Longhurst’s inventive abstract staging supports Payne beautifully, and the terrific Jake Gyllenhaal, sporting a flawless working-class regional English accent in his American stage debut, eschews a star turn to take his place in a top-flight four-person ensemble. It all makes for a riveting evening of theater.
Payne’s ear for speech is impressively acute, with the four disparate ways the characters speak revealing volumes about who they are, and the gifted company is flawlessly attuned to the rhythms. Gyllenhaal’s Terry is a profane rush of fractured syntax and dropped words and phrases, yet the actor makes every intention and meaning startlingly clear. He’s quite adept at negotiating Terry’s sudden shifts of temper and provides an intriguing mix of self-righteousness and lack of confidence. Brían F. O’Byrne is a pompous yet sympathetic George, whose halting, deliberate words and upper-class accent mark him as his own carefully constructed invention. Terry and George couldn’t be more different from each other, but in the hands of Gyllenhaal and O’Byrne they are completely believable siblings.
Michelle Gomez stresses Fiona’s strength, capability, and frustration, all qualities underscored by her clipped, precise diction and habit of speaking in well-formed sentences. Annie Funke has a symphony of silences as Anna—sullen, glowering, tentative, judgmental—when she isn’t pouring out rapid-fire teen-speak or landing a terse observation. Funke excels at simultaneously highlighting Anna’s vulnerability and fortitude.
Just about everything in British playwright Nick Payne's If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet is topical: There's a bullied plus-size 15-year-old named Anna (Annie Funke). Her clueless dad, George (Mildred Pierce's Brían F. O'Byrne), is a global-warming obsessive writing a book about the carbon footprint of everyday living. Her teacher mother, Fiona (Michelle Gomez), is distracted by her own mom's descent into Alzheimer's. And then there's Anna's ne'er-do-well uncle, whose chief claim to our attention may be the fact that he's played by Jake Gyllenhaal (in his New York stage debut). It's a suitably recessive role for the young movie star, who nails the slackerly aloofness (and British accent), if not the undercurrents of anger that would lead him to trash a romantic rival's car.
Director Michael Longhurst works overtime to make Payne's symbolism as literal as possible. There's a vast pool of water at the front edge of the stage at the Roundabout's Off Broadway Laura Pels Theatre into which the actors toss furniture and props as the play progresses, detritus meant to evoke the rising tides from melting polar ice caps. The climax offers a striking bit of stagecraft, but one that threatens to overwhelm the slender banks of Payne's story and the modest trajectories of his characters, so blinkered by their private fixations that they often fail to see the big picture. B
No one could accuse Jake Gyllenhaal of taking the easy road in his American stage debut.
In Nick Payne's If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet ( * * out of four), the film star plays Terry, one of two brothers whose lives have taken different paths. Terry's elder sibling, George â?? played by the superb Brian F. O'Byrne â?? is a professor and obsessive environmentalist who lives with his wife and teenage daughter in an unspecified U.K town. ...
Gyllenhaal, who won acclaim on the London stage before becoming a marquee name, brings authenticity and generosity to his role in this ensemble work. His tortured but fundamentally decent Terry has an easy, endearing rapport with Funke's pitiable but plucky Anna.
Let's hope that he'll return to the theater — and with better material next time.
Hollywood's Jake Gyllenhaal does not deliver a star turn in If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet, at the Roundabout's Laura Pels Theatre. And that's a good thing. He is instead part of a solid ensemble of actors who breathe life into Nick Payne's quietly affecting drama. ...
It's into this environment that George's brother Terry (Gyllenhaal) arrives. A drifter with anger issues and a proclivity for foul language, Terry is an unlikely role model for Anna. And yet, the two develop a friendship that is complexly drawn by the playwright, and well played by the actors who suggest the possible improprieties in the uncle-niece relationship in both subtle and overt fashion.
Gyllenhaal's hangdog expressions are endearing, and his charged rapport with Funke makes their characters' connection to one another both believable and unsettling. For her part, Funke displays a good mixture of bravado and vulnerability. ...
Time Out New York
It looks as if a natural disaster hit the stage of the Laura Pels Theatre. Beowulf Boritt’s set of chairs, tables and other furniture is piled high in the center—blown there, or shored up by frantic survivors? And what’s with the trough of water at the edge of the stage—are we expecting a flood? Not far into Nick Payne’s brutally honest and tender family tale If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet, you realize that the cause of this disorder isn’t a hurricane, but rather a man-made catastrophe. Using set changes that are both practical and neatly metaphoric, director Michael Longhurst shows that sometimes people with the highest ideals make the biggest messes. ...
Gyllenhaal is making his New York stage debut here, and it’s a beaut. Perfectly nailing a London drawl and exuding an air of rumpled, unwashed profanity leavened by flashes of wit and boyish ardor, he renders Terry an utterly vivid, laddish mensch. The cast surrounding Gyllenhaal is equally sensational, even though there’s no need to bolster the film star. Gomez is all weary, pinched compromise, and as the plus-size outcast, Funke earns our sympathy without resorting to cuteness or pathos. O’Byrne, too long absent from New York, gives a magnificently balanced performance. Gentle yet obtuse, deeply moral but impotent, his stammering George is a man who stands to gain the world, but could lose his family. The ending of this stirring, humane, insightful work suggests that perhaps we shouldn’t have to choose.
If there is a less likely vehicle and venue for a celebrity screen actor's American stage debut, it's a play at an Off-Broadway theater by a British playwright who's unknown to New York Theater goers. But that's exactly the play and place where Jake Gyllenhaal is making his first American stage appearance, at the same time his newest film, End of Watch, opens.
If Gyllenhaal thought this would allow him to avoid Broadway's post-show crowds wanting to have their programs signed, the mob outside the Laura Pells the night I was there says otherwise. Neither should Gyllenhaal's fans expect him to be the indisputable star of If There Is I Haven't Found It aYet. Though his character is the catalyst that gets the plot boiling in Nick Payne's grammatically incorrect and awkwardly titled dark comedy this is not a star vehicle. Each character of the 4-member ensemble is equally important in establishing the dysfunctional mom-dad-daughter (Michelle Gomez, Brian E. O'Byrne, Annie Funke) and uncle (Gyllenhaal) as symbols of the state of the world. ...
While all the performances are good, it's Annie Funke's Anna who breaks your heart and Gyllenhaal's Terry who is Payne's most compelling and complex character. Gyllenhaal is eminently watchable as he navigates between his character's potty-mouthed surface and his deeper feelings of anger, empathy and yearning.
Vogue: With If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet, by the British playwright Nick Payne, Jake Gyllenhaal returns to the stage for the first time in a decade, not as a brazen leading man but as a scared, emotionally broken child of circumstance. ...
Gyllenhaal’s performance is detailed and controlled enough to bring such particulars to life, channeling the angry restlessness of a character who dreams big but can’t start to get started. With his hair matted into an unkempt ruff and his movements quick and skittish as a hungry animal’s in a dark larder, Terry is a frightened, quivering rodent of a beta male. Funke’s Anna, meanwhile, is his complement onstage, a beaten kid with an adult’s hard spine. ...
It’s a haunting image, and an apt one, too. From Anna’s painful encounters with bullies to Terry’s bad romance, virtually all of the trauma here happens offstage, making what we actually see a kind of wreckage: not the hot explosive center but its cooling shards. The detritus piles up. “Are we worth saving, if we’re not prepared to change?” George asks at one point, of his foundering eco-rescue effort. Perhaps the most shocking thing about Payne’s play is that his answer, if it comes at all, is chilly with ambivalence.
NY 1: The drama is compelling enough particularly with this cast. Brian F. O'Byrne and Michelle Gomez as loving but flawed parents are sublime. Annie Funke handles teen angst with shattering honesty and Jake Gyllenhaal in only his second stage appearance is extraodinary. Moment to moment this movie star's performance rivals the most seasoned Broadway professionals.
The title is apparently a response to the play's thematic question: Is our way of life worth preserving if we're not prepared to change? I can't answer that but I can say this compassionate and insightful drama, even with some missteps, is a keeper.
Hollywood Reporter: Jake Gyllenhaal had a London stage success in 2002 with Kenneth Lonergan’s This Is Our Youth, but until now the actor has never done theater in New York. It’s a pleasure to see him apply his mellow charisma to a minor-key ensemble role rather than marching into town full of star swagger. But Gyllenhaal’s choice of British playwright Nick Payne’s unremarkable If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet to make his Off Broadway debut is perplexing.
Newsday: We all live in at least two parallel universes, one personal and the other global. Or at least we do in "If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet" -- Nick Payne's apocalyptic British domestic drama that, among other notable things, introduces Jake Gyllenhaal to the New York stage.
Gyllenhaal, currently also on-screen as an L.A. cop in "End of Watch," makes an admirable, low-key debut here as part of a four-character ensemble in which the people and story intentionally compete with the set. He plays Terry, the scruffy, sensitive but dangerously impetuous drifter who arrives unannounced to his obsessed, environmentalist brother's home and befriends his bullied, overweight teenage niece.
NY Post: Nick Payne’s family drama has garnered a lot of attention because it marks Jake Gyllenhaal’s New York theater debut. Spoiler alert: He and his English accent are perfectly fine. ...
Into this unhappy household comes George’s younger brother, the slackerish Terry (Gyllenhaal), who warms to his unhappy niece. Broody in a young James Dean kind of way — he rakes his hand through his hair a lot — Gyllenhaal has an appealing, fumbling romanticism.
He and O’Byrne also have a convincing relationship as estranged siblings with a shared inability to communicate with loved ones. ...
But as good as the actors are, they can’t conceal the fact that they’re playing clichés thrown into overly familiar situations. You can over-direct this Family Dysfunction 101 class all you want, but it just looks like someone wearing clothes three sizes too big.
New Jersey Newsroom: Movie hunk Jake Gyllenhaal ably makes his U.S. stage debut in “If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet,” a new drama about a troubled British family that literally proves to be all wet. ...
The unexpected arrival of the foul-mouthed, useless but rather adorable Terry for a visit more or less leads to the major family meltdown that inundates the stage. A scruffy man-child who is nursing long-term heartbreak, Terry is a juicy supporting role that a relaxed Gyllenhaal embodies agreeably enough, using plenty of arms-splaying gestures to indicate the character’s inability to verbally express himself.
In contrast to Gyllenhaal’s charming performance, O’Byrne looks subdued, Gomez seems sharp and Funke is inscrutable.
The playwright’s stuttering or fragmentary dialogue stresses the inarticulate nature of the characters whose tensions are compounded by their lack of communication. In some ways a surprisingly sophisticated drama by a promising young author (Payne was 25 when he wrote it), “If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet” disappointingly subsides into a so-what conclusion following its splashy climax.
NY Daily News:
“If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet” is a small ensemble play getting a big profile boost from Jake Gyllenhaal.
Happily, the “Brokeback Mountain” Oscar nominee shows off sturdy stage chops in his New York theater debut.
He’s touching, funny and completely convincing as Uncle Terry, a scruffy man-boy chronically adrift, profane, bad with boundaries, but with a good heart. In short, Terry is far from perfect but likable.
The same goes for this 90-minute one-act by British playwright Nick Payne, an up-and-comer who puts his own spin on the popular topic of family dysfunction and durability.
Talkin Broadway: Gyllenhaal is terrific and ideally cast as Terry, playing the young man as an adult male version of Anna who's never been able to completely abandon his own insecurities. Nervous tics abound (he cannot keep his legs still, whether standing or sitting), and the swaggering confidence he displays is always undercut by the apparent belief that nothing about him is good enough to accept as is. It's a detailed, charismatic performance of exactly appropriate theatrical size, something not all movie stars prove capable of when treading the New York boards — his is an extremely impressive debut.
Some friends and family came out to see Jake on the stage:
Congratulations to Jake on two incredible pieces of acting premiering in two days. I hope he is enjoying this ride.
(Photos courtesy of Yahoo, NY Times and Walter McBride Photography.)