Absurd, emotionally acute, Python-esque, brilliantly acted, and ultimately incomprehensible, Sari Caine’s Mr. Landing Takes a Fall is a thorny amalgam of pleasure and frustration.
Described by the playwright as a riff on Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Mr. Landing Takes a Fall gives us a bickering, loving, and bickering-loving old couple, Mr. and Mrs. Landing. Played with depth and off-the-rails humor by Broadway veterans Adam LeFevre (Our Country’s Good, Mamma Mia!) and Kathryn Rosseter (Death of a Salesman), they have lived in a small nondescript house with extremely dated furnishings for, so they say, 500 years.
The fantasy trope of the immortals is stirred up by the arrival of a young couple, Cynthia (Caine) and Michael (David Rigo), apparent newlyweds who turn up at the Landings’ in full bride-and-groom regalia in response to a real estate listing Mrs. Landing has published unbeknownst to her alcoholic husband. Mrs. L’s actual motivation for putting the house on the market, along with Cynthia and Michael’s real situation and indeed the full personalities of all four characters are only gradually revealed as the evening veers from a twisted sort of hospitality into sexual aggression, general chaos, and violence.
A full-page Playwright’s Note in tiny print in the program not only fails to explain what the play is about but is by its very length a strong hint that, as Gertrude Stein might have put it, “there’s no there there.” After an hour and a quarter of madcap moments and comic surprises framed by evocative poetics and sharpened into affecting revelations, all dexterously directed by Sherri Eden Barber (Inadmissible), who is a master of the use of tight spaces, the play in the end left me bewildered, and with a grating feeling that that wasn’t the intention.