Martyna Majok’s Cost of Living, playing at Manhattan Theater Club, pushes boundaries and forces to look at loneliness, disabilities, immigration and connection. We first meet Eddie (Victor Williams) at a bar on Christmas Eve. He is enthusiastic, a romantic who has lost the women he loves and has made a pack with himself that if he talks about doom and gloom he will buy the person having to listen a drink. He has come to the bar to meet the person who is texting him from his dead wife phone. What Eddie really wants is someone to ease his loneliness and fear of being alone. Having lost his job Eddie, as an out-of-work long-haul trucker due to a DUI, Eddie longs to be working.
Jess (Jolly Abraham) is an immigrant, who went to Princeton but, has fallen on hard times. She has come to be a caregiver for John (Gregg Mozgala) who has cerebral palsy. John is a rich, bratty grad student who has gone to Harvard and is now at Princeton. He bates Jess as she tries to prove her worth. Jesse needs every dollar she can earn and John makes her work for her pay.
We then meet Ani (Katy Sullivan) a double above-the-knee amputee. Ani is angry at herself, the world but mostly her estranged husband, Eddie, who wants to help her with ideas he’s gleaned from the internet. She tells him a machine has no idea what she is going through. She is a cat with claws out, spitting and fur flying.
John also tells Jess she cannot understand what it is like to be him. Ms. Sullivan, is a bilateral amputee and Mr. Mozgala does have cerebral palsy. They both are riveting, especially Ms. Sullivan who is so sharp witted with acidic comic timing and a face that shows everything.
The highlight of the piece is when Jess bathes John and starts to feel something real and when Eddie, giving Ani a bath, as he plays her arm plays like a piano, we see a glimmer of connection.
The play is haunting, if not a little disjointed. Taking a mer 100 minutes, you feel as if you have missed something. in reading that this is an expansion from 2015 one-act called John, Who’s Here From Cambridge, makes sense as why I felt I was missing something.
Jo Bonney’s staging is fierce and blatant just like the writing. Ms. Bonney brings out the best in this terrific well rounded cast.
The set design by Wilson Chin shows us how circular the past and the present are.
Majok’s has her hand on the diversity of the world and how the disabled are not necessarily the one with outward appearances.
Cost of Living: Manhattan Theatre Club at City Center – Stage I, 131 W. 55th St. Until July 16th