Friday, April 8, 2016

Off-Broadway Review Antlia Pneumatica

Nat DeWolf, Maria Striar, Crystal Finn & April Matthis. Photo: Joan Marcus
Antlia Pneumatica

By Anne Washburn
Directed by Ken Rus Schmoll
Playwrights Horizons

By Lauren Yarger
What's It All About?
Commissioned by Playwrights Horizons, where playwright Anne Washburn's Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play was a hit,  Antlia Pneumatica subtitles itself a play about "place, space and grace." OK. Not sure I got that as not a great deal happens as folks stand around chatting for an hour and 45 minutes, sometimes looking at the stars (Lighting Designer Tyler Micoleau creates a nice star-heavy sky)  glittering above the Texas ranch (minimally designed by Rachel Hauck under just enough framework and tree branches to give us the idea of setting) where they have gathered for a service and spreading of Sean's ashes.

Some of them, like former couple Nina (Annie Parisse) and Adrian (Rob Campbell) have not seen each other in many years. We get the feeling their breakup wasn't fun and that they pretty much have put each other out of their minds. Nina has moved on with husband and kids. Bama (Crystal Finn) enjoys the reunion as an escape from her mundane existence as a wife and mother, reveling in the luxury of an uninterrupted bath at the hotel and a meal prepared for her at Denny's/   Others, like sister Liz (April Mathis), friend Len (Nat DeWolf) and Ula (Maria Striar) have been in touch more regularly, but it soon becomes apparent that doesn't mean they are important parts of each other's lives. And maybe the feelings between Nina and Adrian aren't as buried as they might think after 16 years.

Meanwhile, no one really seems all that affected by Sean's death. After all, they sort of ended up with his askes because no one else seemed to want them and some of his funeral instructions were left over from the days when the group hung out together.

What Are the Highlights?
Director Ken Rus Schmoll, who helmed the quirky Iowa at Playwrights, manages to create an uncertain atmosphere that matches the questions we have about these folks. I particularly like the starlit sky scene where we barely see the outlines of Adrian and Nina in the starlight. The universe is vast and uncertain, like their lives.

What Are the Lowlights?
Not enough invested in the characters. It takes us a while to figure out who they are and what their relationships to each other are (and we never fully get it). This isn't "The Big Chill" where we feel like we are invited to the angst-filled reunion of friends who were once close, but who now realize they might not have a lot in common except for their memories. It also doesn't have the feel of  Washburn's amusing Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play (which also ran at Playwrights) where we entered a world linked to us by characters we know from "The Simpsons." Instead Antlia Pneumatica makes us feel more like we showed up at the wrong house by mistake,

Voices are heard in the dark from offstage. We aren't quite sure some times whether these are thoughts the characters are having or whether the conversations are really happening. Some of the conversations between characters and why pecans keep dropping from the branches hanging overhead also are not obvious in meaning.

And what's with that title, any way. It ends up being the name of a small constellation of stars meaning air pump.

"When we know that four stars have been slung together and called an air pump, we
realize that really, the whole sky is up for grabs, says Adrian. All righty then.

More information:
Antlia Pneumatica runs through April 24 at Playwrights Horizons’ Peter Jay Sharp Theater, 416 West 42nd St., NYC. Performances are Tuesdays through Fridays at 7:30 pm; Saturdays at 2 and 7:30 pm; Sundays at 2 and 7 pm. There is a special 30 and under performance on April 14 at 7:30 pm; Tickets are $60-$80:; 212- 279-4200; Box Office.

Additional credits: 
Costume Design by Jessica Pabst, Sound Design by Leah Gelpe and original music by Daniel Kluger.

As part of this season’s Symposium series, there will be a special panel discussion with playwright Anne Washburn between shows on Saturday, April 16 at 4 pm. Tickets for the event, in which Ms. Washburn will serve a moderator, can be reserved by visiting Tickets are $5 for season package holders and $10 for the general public.

Here's a trailer:

-- Language
-- God's name used in vain

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play concept, "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York in February 2018.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Intensive and other training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women. She is a former vice preseint and voting member of The Drama Desk.

She is a freelance writer and playwright (member Dramatists Guild of America). She is a member if the The Outer Critics Circle (event manager for the annual awards ceremony), The American Theater Critics Association, The League of Professional Theatre Women and the Drama League. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She also is a member of the Episcopal Actors' Guild, the NY Public Library for the Performing Arts and The O'Neill Theatre Center..

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2018 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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