By Joseph Cervelli
Grief is one of the healing processes in the loss of a loved one. In Ngozi Anyanwu’s well intentioned but detached “Good Grief” at the Vineyard Theatre her goal appears to be obtaining the good vs. negative grief in dealing with such tragedy. Yet, there were too many scenes that feel almost like fillers (what was with that bizarre wrestling scene at the beginning of the show!) which add nothing to the play which is written in a non-linear style.
The play stars Anyanwu as Nkechi whose parents come from Nigeria and they all reside in Bucks County, PA. Her childhood friend MJ (Ian Quinlan) has died tragically in a car accident. In flashbacks we see both of them as children having fun playing video games--a scene that is very realistically played out. Later they are in bed but nothing much occurs sexually between them. Just basically teens unsure of themselves experimenting. For some reason that is not completely clear as to why she takes a leave from medical school much to her parents displeasure. It is hard to get a grip on MJ’s character. He seems to like her but there is a distant feel to his character which does not help involvement in the show. You get the feeling you are being told a story more so than actually feeling what is actually happening on the stage. I am not quite sure if director Awoye Timpo’s could do much to have added any real warmth to the scenes that leave you strangely aloof.
There is also a brief relationship with JD (Hunter Parrish) which adds little to the storyline as does bringing in her brother (Nnamdi Asomugha) whose encounters with Nkechi go nowhere.
The playwright has in all likelihood unknowingly written her parents in the show (Patrice Johnson Cheyennes and Oberon K. A. Adjepong) to be while not uncaring rather standoffish. This is especially evident for when you hear her sobs (not really effective because they appear to be pre-recorded) they are more concerned with “spooning” while being in bed. They quite surprisingly show no interest in their daughter’s sorrow.
There is promise in Anyanwu’s writing but here the show sheds no real life on the grieving process and the entire play lacks focus on characters or situations. Sadly, it is not developed as it should be.
Tickets are available at the Vineyard Theater 115 West 15th Street or by calling 212.353.0303.
PHOTOS: CAROL ROSEGG