Mom Theatre Blogger: PERMISSION: Show Review by Robin Gorman Newman
Playwright Robert Askins has two shows in NYC right now, and while it’s hard to top the impact of HAND TO GOD, Permission holds its comedic own with an appealing cast and a quirky twist on couplehood, the pursuit of marital intimacy and Catholicism.
Askins is adept at pushing the religious envelope, and with Permission, think a milder Fifty Shades of Grey meets Christ, and that gives you a clue.
While no hand puppet is featured here, the wives are puppet-like, as they devotedly acquiesce to their husbands. Dowdy Cyndy aspires to write a novel, but instead spends time watching television reruns Matlock and inhaling wine. Eric is acting chairman of a local science department, and lacks the backbone to push for a permanent position. Zach is a driven entrepreneur with an eye toward expanding his sporting goods business. Leggy Michelle is part attorney part Martha Stewart, if only to please her husband. However, when she’s bad in his eyes, she’s bad in the eyes of God, and there are ramifications.
At a dinner party, Cyndy and Eric witness a rousing spanking session between close friends Zach and Shelley, devotees of the real life practice of Christian Domestic Discipline (CDD), and while initially shocked, they wind up adopting the practice themselves. It breathes new life into their sex lives and mundane exsitance, despite the fact that Eric remains tempted by comely Jeanie, his eager assistant.
Act II features a riotous group fight scene, well executed by the game cast, and there are many laughs including references to Lean Pockets, kale etc. Coming out of the mouths of these seasoned and physical actors, the lines fly, as do the bodies. Permission stars Justin Bartha (Eric), of Broadway’s Lend Me A Tenor, Off-Broadway’s All New People and the popular film The Hangover; Twilight Saga and “Grey’s Anatomy” Emmy®-nominated star Elizabeth Reaser (Cyndy), returning to MCC following her critically acclaimed performance in this fall’s The Money Shot; and theater regulars Nicole Lowrance (Michelle), Talene Monahon (Jeanie), and Lucas Near-Verbrugghe (Zach). All deliver, and Reaser’s Gumby-like facial expressions are especially riotous.
The show is spicy, if not sadistic, fun! My biggest takeaway — CDD really exists! Husbands spank their wives with a belt, hair brush, you name it…..in the name of God — whipping them into behavioral shape. Who knew?! And how active a practice is it?! Inquiring minds (or at least my inquiring mind) now wants to know.
Tony® Award nominee Alex Timbers directs Permission, which was last seen at MCC with the Tony-nomiated Hand to God—which is now premiering on Broadway at The Booth Theatre.
MCC Theater – founded in 1986 as Manhattan Class Company – is driven by a mission to provoke conversations that have never happened and otherwise never would. Led by Artistic Directors Robert LuPone, Bernard Telsey, William Cantler, and Executive Director Blake West, MCC fulfills its mission by producing new work that challenges artists and rewards audiences, and by nurturing the development of playwrights and students through a variety of literary and education programs.
Permission is playing through June 14th at the Lucille Lortel Theatre (121 Christopher Street). Visit www.mcctheater.org.