‘MARVIN’S ROOM’: Janeane Garofolo & Lili Taylor. Photo: Joan Marcus

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Written by Scott McPherson

Directed by Anne Kauffman
Through August 27, 2017
American Airlines Theatre
227 West 42nd Street


By David NouNou

Although an often touching play, this mostly reverent revival of Scott McPherson’s Marvin’s Room never fully envelops you. Part of the reason is that the American Airlines stage is so huge for such an intimate piece, you get the feeling that the characters have to walk the breadth of the stage to talk or connect to each other. This is a broken family that is not wealthy and their habitat would be almost claustrophobic, but here the house is so spacious. Instead of bringing the family together in crisis, it places them in separate voids.

Bessie (Lili Taylor) has been tending her stroke-ridden father for the last 20 years; he is the unseen Marvin groaning in his own room. Bessie also tends her chronically ill Aunt Ruth (Celia Weston) who forgets the simplest little tasks that Bessie assigns her when she has to go visit her doctor. It turns out that Bessie is not suffering from fatigue but from leukemia.

This brings in her long-estranged sister, Lee (Janeane Garofalo), a woman she hasn’t seen for years. Lee also brings her two sons, the older Hank (Jake DiFalco) who has been institutionalized because he set their house on fire; and the younger son, the bookworm, Charlie (Luca Padovan). Bessie has never met her nephews but the three of them come down to Florida for tests to see if they would be a match for a bone-marrow transplant.

The play works best when it deals with the intimate subjects like the path the two sisters took. Lee left the family because she didn’t want to be trapped, Bessie stayed to look after her father and aunt. While Lee went looking for love, Bessie feels she has received endless love from the satisfaction of being there for her father and aunt. Lee is strict with Hank, Bessie shows him love and understanding. Different paths and techniques bring different results.

The performances shine. Lili Taylor, as the sacrificing sister, and Janeane Garofalo, as the selfish one, complement each other beautifully. Celia Weston, as the hapless Ruth, is a joy as always. Jake DiFalco as the troubled Hank is splendid. His ambivalence and wanting to belong is the pulsating heart that eventually brings the sisters together. Equally good is Luca Padovan as Charlie, the younger brother who tries to make sense of it all.

One wonders if Marvin’s Room could have been much more immediate and immersive had it played at the more intimate Laura Pels Theatre. a sister of the Roundabout family, because the 1990 drama was originally an Off-Broadway production.


Edited by Scott Harrah
Published July 9, 2017
Reviewed at July 8, 2017 press performance.


‘MARVIN’S ROOM’: Lili Taylor & Celia Weston. Photo: Joan Marcus


Marvin's Room

‘MARVIN’S ROOM’: (top) Jack DiFalco & (bottom) Janeane Garofolo & Lili Taylor. Photo: Joan Marcus

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