I must say that I was at first a bit irritated at TOO MUCH, TOO MUCH, TOO MANY. I have a pet peeve about plays written as if they were tv shows -- lots of short scenes with pauses between as if waiting for the commercials to be edited in. However, the scenes got longer, the pauses shorter as the play progressed and by half an hour into its seventy minutes, I was totally won over. Kennedy writes characters one comes to care about.
I guess one could sum up the play in a simple-minded way by saying it is about love and loss. It is in the quasi-Gothic middle-American mode of a number of recent plays by young playwrights; for instance, Sam Hunter's THE WHALE and Stephen Karam's SONS OF THE PROPHET. The central character in TOO MUCH, TOO MUCH, TOO MANY is Rose (Phyllis Somerville), a seventy-eight year old woman who hasn't left her bedroom since her husband James (James Rebhorn), in a fog of Alzheimer's, drowned in the lake by their home. Rose is cared for by her thirty-nine year old daughter Emma (Rebecca Henderson) who has also cut herself off from the world and who lives with vivid memories of her father. Every night Emma must recount to her mother how James's body was found. Enter the handsome, mysterious young preacher (Luke Kirby) who takes it upon himself to get Rose out of her room and Emma out of the house. In essence, Rose and Emma are dead to the world. Can they be brought back to life? Rose has lost the love that made her life worth living and Emma seems to live in fear of any loving connection except with her parents. The pastor, who has suffered his own tragic losses, can only be saved by saving someone else.
I know this synopsis sounds trite -- it's a difficult play to describe without giving away too many of its surprises. Like many of her contemporaries, Kennedy writes in the classic American style of poetic realism. The writing is lovely, and it is heightened by the superb production the play has been given in the tiny Black Box Theatre under the Roundabout's Laura Pels Theatre. Sheryl Kaller has staged and paced the play effectively and the actors couldn't be better. Somerville, Rebhorn and Kirby are familiar faces from film and television. They are also accomplished stage actors whose performances are totally honest. I liked Rebecca Henderson in THE WHALE and here she quietly and subtly brings out Emma's pain and fear. This is one of those cases where one can't separate play and production. I can't imagine it done otherwise or better.
The play's epigraph is from Walt Whitman, Rose's favorite poet: "We were together. I forget the rest." There is no lovelier or more succinct testament of love. Without that kind of love, the characters in TOO MUCH, TOO MUCH, TOO MANY aren't really alive even if love inevitably leads to loss. The romantic in me couldn't help but respond to this rich, touching play despite the stops and starts of the first half hour or so.
TOO MUCH, TOO MUCH, TOO MANY. A Roundabout Theatre Production. Black Box Theatre at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre.