Tracy Letts’ new play The Minutes comes across as an old episode of The Twilight Zone at best.
In a town hall boardroom, the lights go out at meaningful moments and outside there is dramatic thunder. Every now and then, a casually thrown-in remark will raise a frown – suggesting that the outsider might not be who they say they are. We nervously await Rod Serling telling us that we are “midway between light and shadow, between science and superstition.” Or just Connecticut – but no luck.
Ninety minutes without a break. At Studio 54, 254 W. 54th St.
Our theories as to what’s actually going on at this Big Cherry City Council meeting run the gamut: murder, aliens, cult worship, or just plain old-fashioned Broadway comedy. The long-running uncertainty as to the genre of The Minutes makes Letts’ work, which opened Sunday night at Studio 54, an eminently clever effort.
However, our high wears off once we get our response near the end of the track. And the truth is more obvious than we hoped. While the conclusion admirably indicts the behavior of tony, deep-blue suburbs, it addresses a problem America has grappled with for centuries.
The controversial final moment (a queasy woman ran out of the theater) adds to the old-fashioned vibe and feels bold and thought-provoking than it really is.
Nonetheless, the journey there is very enjoyable, filled with sizzling dialogue, strong-willed Steppenwolf theatrical performances, and Letts’ persuasive argument: that even the tiniest historical accounts, such as a meeting’s minutes, are essential to understanding what happened in the past.
Letts – America’s best playwright-actor combination since Sam Shepard – stars in his play as the strict, rule-obsessed Mayor Superba. (Nothing is scarier than the feral Letts calling order to a meeting.) He and nine others sit behind microphones and voice petty complaints that escalate into seriousness.
Tony Award winner Jessie Mueller is the stoic clerk; K. Todd Freeman is Mr. Blake, who has a hilarious plan to bring money into town; the always excellent Blair Brown is the vengeful Ms. Innes; Cliff Chamberlain is stupid Mr. Breeding; Jeff Still is the chronically mispronounced Mr. Assalone; the germaphobe who is probably a cat lady, Ms. Matz, is played by Sally Murphy; and Danny McCarthy as the sucker-next-door Mr. Hanratty.
Funniest is Austin Pendleton, whose Mr. Oldfield can barely hear and yells at his need for a better parking spot. The hilarious actor’s outbursts and unpredictable pace are perfect.
And Noah Reid from Schitt’s Creek (who replaced Armie Hammer) remains the talk of the town as a doe-eyed but not-so-gullible new council member who was absent from the last meeting and keeps asking to see the minutes. But they are nowhere to be found.
We quickly learn that the secret of this document lies with Mr Carp (Ian Barford), whose chair mysteriously sits empty for most of the hour and a half.
Directed by Anna D. Shapiro, The Minutes is a more poignant than usual political play by Letts. “August: Osage County,” “Bug,” and “Linda Vista” all flirted with trouble, but didn’t go there like his last few. I’m glad the playwright is trying something new here, even if the fireworks don’t go off as planned.
I just wish the twist was aliens.
https://nypost.com/2022/04/18/the-minutes-review-broadway-play-is-better-than-its-ending/ The Broadway play is better than its ending