Saturday, July 8, 2017

Broadway Theater Review: Marvin's Room

Marvin's Room
By Scott McPherson
Directed by Anne Kauffman
Roundabout Theatre Company
Through Aug. 27

By Lauren Yarger
What's It All About?
Family and choices are at the center of Scott McPherson's Marvin's room, getting a limited run by Roundabout Theatre Company. Anne Kauffman makes her directorial Broadway debut for the play, which stars Janeane Garofalo, Celia Weston and Lili Taylor. McPherson's play had been turned into a film starring Meryl Streep and Diane Keaton, among others, but this is the first time it has played the Great White Way.

Two siblings are reunited after a long separation when Bessie (Taylor) discovers she is ill and may need a bone marrow match from her sister, Lee (Garofalo), or one of her nephews: young and nerdy Charlie (Luca Padovan), or troubled teen Hank (Jack DiFalco, who reminds of Leonardo DiCaprio, who starred in the film). He burned down his family;s house and has to get permission from his therapist, Dr. Charlotte (Nedra McClyde), to join his mother and brother for the trip to Florida t see the aunt he never has met. He's not sure he even wants to be tested, however, even if Bessie might die without his help.

As it turns out, Bessie easily bonds with her nephews who rebel at Lee's parenting, which is a mix of over-protection and lack of interest. Meanwhile, the family must come to terms with some realities in the face of Bessie's illness, treated with ineptitude by Doctor Wally (Triney Sandoval). Who will care for their father, Marvin (Carman Lacivita), who is bed-ridden in the next room (shown only in shadows and silhouette in Laura Jellinek's set design which morphs into a number of different locations) if Bessie no longer can? Lee made a decision long ago to put her own needs ahead of caring for him and left it all to her sister deal with while she moved away, started a family and went back to school. Bessie's not bitter, however, and considers it a privilege to look after Marvin and her increasingly dependent and needy Aunt Ruth (Weston). The characters find how far the bonds of family can stretch.

What Are the Highlights?
Very good performances across the board and insightful direction by Anne Kauffman allows the characters to express their true feelings in looks, tone and body language, where the dialogue creates a false impression that everyone isn't as unhappy as you think they must be....

What Are the Lowlights?
I have always found this play very depressing. It's a play about lost dreams and facing the realities of life, so the material is serious and we don't expect a comedy (though the hapless doctor is intended as some comic relief, but for anyone who has actually dealt with doctors and hospitals on a regular basis, incompetent health professionals are nothing to joke about). The characters never ring true, however. Bessie doesn't have any resentment? Really? Lee can't get over her failed marriage enough to love her own kids? And can we really believe that someone who long ago abandoned her father, aunt and sister without so much as a word or a penny of financial help would suddenly feel compelled to drop everything to donate some marrow and offer up her sons as candidates for the grueling procedure too?

Most annoyingly, why is this play called Marvin's Room? None of the action takes place there. We don't see Marvin and only hear him moan occasionally. Elephant in the Room, maybe, because there is a whole lot of unspoken tension that never gets spoken or resolved.

More Information:
Marvin's Room plays through Aug. 27 at American Airlines Theatre, 227 West 42nd St., NYC.

Tickets are $47–$147:

Additional credits:
Jessica Pabst, Costume Designer; Japhy Weideman, Lighting Designer; Daniel Kluger,
Sound Design and Original Music; Leah J. Loukas, Hair and Wig Design; Thomas Schall,
Movement Consultant; Matthew Elias Hodges, Production Properties Supervisor

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

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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. Shifting from reviewing to producing, Yarger owns Gracewell Productions, which produced the Table Reading Series at the Palace Theater in Waterbury, CT. She trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing 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 wrote 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 was 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 president 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 (producer of the annual awards ceremony) and a member of The League of Professional Theatre Women, serving as Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter. Yarger was a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly 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- 2024 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 or people of a certain race 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. 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 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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