Review: Incidental Moments of the Day

by Lynn on September 22, 2020

in The Passionate Playgoer

On-line until November 5.

Written and directed by Richard Nelson

Cast: Charlotte Bydwell

Stephen Kunkin

Sally Murphy

Maryann Plunkett

Laila Robins

Jay O. Sanders

A theatrical creation for the pandemic that takes place on zoom as siblings meet, eat, drink and talk about the incidental moments of their day.

The Story and production. It’s about the Apple family: three sisters—Jane (Sally Murphy), Barbara (Marianne Plunkett), Marion (Laila Robins), and their brother Richard (Jay O. Sanders), plus the people around them—girlfriends, partners etc.

Jane was a writer, the youngest and had a fragile relationship with her boyfriend Tim  (Stephen Kunkin) who has moved temporarily back to his boyhood home. Barbara was a teacher. Marion was out and about on a date (she was a woman of a certain age I believe it’s called). She went on the date because she wanted to know what her date looked like without the mask. And Richard the brother was a lawyer and was retiring from working for Governor Cuomo.

This is the third in a trilogy of plays written and performed specifically for presentation by Zoom. Playwright/director Nelson has been writing about this family for about 10 years.

The plays have played at the Public Theatre in New York. When it was performed live in a theatre. The family would sit around the dinner table as they got together to eat, talk, share their lives with each other, bicker and love each other.

Then COVID-19 struck and people were isolated from each other. Same with the Apple Family. Each sibling lived separately, sometimes in a different town so they communicated as per the COVID protocol, by Zoom.

Therefore, to illuminate how the siblings coped with COVID-19 playwright Richard Nelson wrote it as if each sibling was in his/her house talking by computer by Zoom.

And for this segment: Incidental Moments of the Day, the siblings pretended that they were all having dinner as they did before COVID, so there were the characters with their glasses of wine and their plates of food, eating and talking about their day, to each other.  

It worked a treat. We get nuance, subtlety and subtext because it’s all so closely observed on our screens. For example, Jane left the screen to get a drink in another room and the other siblings moved closer to their screens as if to whisper to the others, wondering how Jane was doing? Then Jane came back and confided to her siblings that she was suffering from depression. Others wondered about Richard and how he would do with out working for Cuomo. In a previous play I believe they discussed the killing of George Floyd. The Apple Family plays give you an interesting look at liberal America. I get the sense they are well educated, certainly loving and caring for each other.  They are trying to cope as well as they can.

And while they appear fair-minded, there is a sense of privilege with just a hint of superiority in Marion and Richard. They all talk in a reasoned, reasonable way, no tantrums or rages, but there are undercurrents of disappointment, grudges perhaps and lots of unknowables.

Comment. I’d love to watch the trilogy and get a better sense of them. On the basis of this one play, it’s a terrific feat for art to imitate life in the time of zoom.

Incidental Moments of the Day streams for free until November 5 at:

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