Luna Theater Company
Duncan Macmillan wrote Lungs for a bare stage without scenery, furniture, props, mime, costume changes or light and sound cues. It is, he acknowledges, a “huge challenge for a director” and “a high-wire act for the two actors.” The conversation, his program note continues, “is what matters.”
But what if there’s no matter to the conversation?
The London playwright’s acclaimed drama, staged by Gregory Scott Campbell in the round for just 48 seats in the Adrienne Skybox, is an exercise in generalities that confounds the best efforts of skilled, charismatic actors Charlotte Ford and David Raphaely. Deciding whether or not to have a baby, they recite arguments painfully familiar from lazy Hollywood scripts: Is it arrogant, what if I don’t love it, what about the carbon footprint, blah blah blah. Having this conversation is interesting. Witnessing one between two poorly defined people is torture.
Macmillan’s characters — W and M in the program, nameless in 80 minutes of talk — avoid specifics. Somewhere in the Western world, he works, but wants to be some sort of musician. She ... does something. They read “that book,” saw “that film.” “People go through this everywhere, all the time,” W says. Yeah, no shit.
Lungs finally leaves the baby question for rom-com fodder: infidelity, breakup, reconciliation. Wait, I saw “that film” — didn’t it star Katherine Heigl? David Schulner’s An Infinite Ache (Feb. 1-17, Theatre Horizon) shows a years-long relationship arc in a similarly brisk manner, but does so vividly and unforgettably. Another parallel might be George and Emily in Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, blatant archetypes in a play that constantly reminds that it’s a play — but they're characters that break your heart every time. Lungs just chews up time and spits out nothing.
Ford and Raphaely occasionally approach something real: He muses about “a little imaginary Hannah or Edwin”; nose wrinkling, she replies, “Edwin?” They’re human for a second, but ... meh. Cue the laugh track. This might run for a season on the CW, but it doesn’t deserve to.
Through Feb. 10, $15-$30, Adrienne Theatre, 2030 Sansom St., 866-811-4111, lunatheater.org.