By EDWARD RUBIN
You Will Get Sick, currently playing Off-Broadway at the Laura Pels Theatre in New York City through Sunday, December 11, is the most riveting and mind-stretching play that I have seen this season. The reason being is that you really have to pay close attention to know where you are at any given moment, as there are more twists and turns than a frog in a blender. Blink and you are in another world.
I place the blame squarely on the shoulders, and this is a high compliment, on the zany, over-the-top genius of playwright Noah Diaz, the play’s all-seeing and deliciously inventive director Sam Pinkleton and Linda Lavin, the play’s 85-year-old Tony-winning star, who like Cleopatra entering Rome, is making a triumphant and long overdue return to the New York stage.
Marinda Anderson, the hilarious Nate Miller and Dario Ladani Sanchez – the play’s three limber-legged cast members who are frequently called upon at the drop of a hat to morph into an entirely new character – more than ably support Lavin, around who all of the action of the play swirls.
Along the way, in a whirligig of changing characters and locations, we find ourselves at the home of a dying man, at a telephone booth adjacent to Central Park, at a restaurant, at an acting class, at several auditions, at a hospital, at a cat-filled bodega and at a wheat farm in the Midwest.
The fun begins with Lavin talking on the phone to Daniel K. Isaac, the play’s second lead, who like Lavin inhabits no other characters other than himself. In the background, like a jet breaking the sound barrier, we hear the screeching of an extremely loud bird. As we find out later, a squadron of large prehistoric-like birds are plucking people off the streets, so frequently that bird kidnapping insurance is being sold.
It seems that Lavin, knee deep in preparing a report on the “Gentrification and How It Affected the Neighborhoods between Seventy-First and Forty-Third, Just Between the Park with the Pack of Wild Dogs and That Bodega with All the Cats in It,” while wandering the street notices a flyer posted on a telephone pole which reads:
“Wanted: Someone To Call Me. I Need To Tell You Something I’m Not Ready To Tell Anyone I Know. I Will Pay You Twenty Dollars.”
Needing the money, as Lavin tells us, she takes the bait and calls him. Thus begins this amazing adventure, a mixture of the highly unlikely and totally plausible.
Story aside, the joy of You Will Get Sick is in watching the actors, obviously enjoying themselves immensely without losing a beat, negotiating the play’s fast-changing scenarios, many of which come as a total surprise.
I mean who would have expected that Lavin, always mesmerizingly watch-worthy to take on the job, for money, as the seriously ailing Daniel K. Isaac’s caretaker? And even more surprising, who could have guessed that Lavin’s greatest dream in life, one that she auditions for twice in this play, is to inhabit the role of Dorothy in the play The Wizard of Oz?
Though You Will Get Sick is uproariously funny, with a number of heartfelt tears carried in its wake and surreal to boot, its view on the nature of sickness, one’s need for caring, companionship, support and understanding – in short, the fragility of life and our own mortality – is a universal poem long passed on from generation to generation.
Cast: Daniel K. Isaac (#1), Linda Lavin (#2), Marinda Anderson (#3), Nate Miller (#4). Dario Ladani Sanchez (#5)
Technical: Set Design: dots, Costume Design: Michael Kross and Alicia Austin, Lighting Design: Cho See, Sound Design: Lee Kinney, Original Music: Daniel Kluger, Magic & Illusions: Skylar Fox, Hair & Wig Design: Tommy Kurzman, Production Stage Manager: Bess Marie Glorioso, Production Manager: Mary Duffe
The Roundabout Theatre Company’s production of Noah Diaz’s play You Will Get Sick, directed by Sam Pinkleton, opened on Sunday, November 6, 2022 at the Laura Pels Theatre in the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre 111 West46h Street in New York City. It will close on Sunday, December 11, 2022. Running time is 1 hour and 25 with no intermission. For more information, or to buy tickets, click here or call 212-719-1300.
Edward Rubin is a member of American Theatre Critics Association, NYC’s Drama Desk, and the Outer Critics Circle, International Association of Theatre Critics, International Association of Art Critics, PEN American Center