Can You Forgiver Her? by Gina Gionfriddo
At the Vineyard Theatre on 15th Street
BS Rating: F
Show-Score Rating: 30
It’s not really clear who is the “her” in the title of Gina Gionfriddo’s “Can You Forgive Her?”, but after 95 minutes of tolerating this nonsensical, pretentious, and ill-conceived play, I cannot bring myself to forgive Ms. Gionfriddo. Billed as a comedy, there is little that is amusing in this portrait of four characters who are both the victims of, and enthusiastic participants in, their misguided lives. There is also very little in Ms. Gionfriddo’s writing that makes these characters believable and the structure of the play anything more than a very forced set of circumstances that give each character the opportunity to reveal their personal history and deepest secrets.
Tanya is a single mother struggling to support her young child while laboring not to “make another mistake” in her love life with a seemingly flagrantly unemployed and unfocused man (Graham) who has spent the last six months in some type of unexplained but inescapable haze over the death of his mother. Graham spends much of the play in high anxiety over whether he must read all of the unpublished manuscripts by his mother, a would-be but never published author of poetry, novels, short stories, and memoirs.
Enter Miranda who is taking refuge at Graham’s home after she causes a ruckus with an “Indian man” at the bar where Tanya is the bartender. Miranda was brought up in a loveless childhood where money was poured upon her in lieu of affection and care. When the money stopped pouring, she ran up “monstrous debt” and now she survives on the goodwill of sugar daddies, yet refuses to see herself as a prostitute. And then there is Miranda’s prime client, David, a 50-something successful face-lifter who cannot face the unbearable but obvious perception that he lacks the ability to have any form of emotional attachment.
The play really does not have a plot. Instead, the collision of these troubled souls is mainly motivated by their concern that Sateesh, the Indian man (you remember him, the guy in the bar, who is also a client of Miranda), will do harm to Miranda, David, the people who David’s country-club companion is entertaining, or even Tanya and Graham. If this all sounds rather ridiculous, well it is.
Ms. Gionfriddo adds to the nonsense by imbuing each of her characters with a tendency to speak in literary metaphors, sometimes appropriate, frequently mangled. Much of the character revelation comes in the form of passionate soliloquys that are less motivated by the events in the play than they are by a contrived moment that allows the character to reveal his or her “big blackness” (Ms. Gionfriddo’s words, not mine). As Miranda so offensively declares, “big blackness’ is something only gay men can understand since “the act of coming out makes them understand pain.”
Each of the actors appears to make a decent effort toward creating believable characters even though the writing is so broad and their actions so inconsistent that the viewer cannot help but say “come on now, really?” Unfortunately, Ms. Gionfriddo puts the actors and director into an untenable position, being exposed. Can they forgive her?