The Williamstown Theatre Festival drew to a close on Sunday evening, and by 6am on Monday I was on the road back home to Maryland. But before I could settle back into normalcy, I turned back around and headed to New York City for one last show of the summer: Marvin’s Room at Roundabout Theatre Company.
Another early morning, I caught a bus with my friend Jake (who you may remember from my Dear Evan Hansen vlog). Our bus left late, but we still had time to grab lunch with my old friend Liz and my friend Zack, with whom I interned at the American Repertory Theater this spring! We decided to try The Grey Dog, which is such a welcoming (and surprisingly spacious) restaurant in Chelsea. We got a cozy corner table and sat talking for a few hours. None of them had met before, but by the end of our meal, we all felt like old friends (*cue Merrily We Roll Along*).
When it was time to head back into Midtown to catch our matinee, we decided to hit the High Line for a bit. It still blows my mind how much of an escape it is, how, simply by climbing a few stairs, you can enter a quiet verdure, a peaceful oasis in the midst of Manhattan’s madness.
For the sake of time, we hopped on a quick E train that dropped us off in the heart of Midtown, just down the block from the American Airlines Theatre.
I’d never heard of Marvin’s Room before this season, but one of the things that Roundabout Theatre Company does best is rediscovering hidden theatrical gems, so I was excited.
One of the most striking aspects of the darkly poetic play, written by Scott McPherson, is that not only is the cast led by three women, but the women are all middle-aged. Regrettably, this is a rarity in the theatre.
The story follows Bessie (Lili Taylor) who has been taking care of her dying father, Marvin (Carman Lacivita), and her ailing Aunt Ruth (Celia Weston), for the better part of 20 years. Suddenly, she is diagnosed with cancer, and the caregiver is now the one in need of care. Bessie’s estranged sister, Lee (Janeane Garofalo), arrives in town with her two sons, troubled Hank (Jack DiFalco) and young Charlie (Luca Padovan), to offer assistance, but their world continues to shift as they try to understand how best to love one another.
The most touching moments were the quiet, vulnerable conversations between Bessie and Hank. It was compelling to see two characters, in such vastly different places in their lives, finding one another and finally being heard, being understood. Their exchanges capture perfectly how the most unexpected person can be the one who changes your life. These flashes of truth are what most affected me.
Something I’ve come to truly appreciate in theatre has been plays that illuminate corners of the human experience that are rarely, if ever, seen on stage, and Marvin’s Room does just that. Being a caregiver can be difficult. It can be messy. It often means struggling alone, in silence, behind closed doors. If theatre has taught me anything, it’s that I’m not alone. And I wholeheartedly believe that this play can give that same gift to anyone else who is experiencing the struggles of any number of these characters.
The 90s-inspired costumes by Jessica Pabst (who was at Williamstown Theatre Festival this summer #represent) felt authentic, and the sprawling yet intimate set by Laura Jellinek featured the most intriguing turn table I’ve ever seen and presented with ease the countless locales of the play, from doctors’ offices to Disney World.
Marvin’s Room is unapologetically human. It does not glamorize the slow, uncertainty of rebuilding relationships or the good intentions spoiled by miscommunication. Quite honestly, it was a breath of fresh air to be able to see life for what it is, not riddled with trite plot twists. This heartbreaking play finds moments of comedy and light and reminds us that at the end of the day, all we have is each other, and we need to love as best we can.
After the show, we found a shady spot in the plaza that’s nestled between 49th and 50th–another one of my favorite escapes from the city heat. We met up with another old friend of mine, Felicia, who we caught just in time–she finished up her summer internship and is leaving the city tomorrow!
We ate dinner al fresco at Mother Burger. I’d been there a few times for their killer $12 brunch, but this was the first time I was diving into the rest of their cuisine. I went for a classic grilled cheese with fries because I was really craving some comfort food, and it did not disappoint.
After that, we made a quick stop at Schmackary’s (because no trip to New York is ever complete without a cookie fix) and saw my other friend AnLi (who has a show going up at 54 Below next week–you should totally check it out!). I got three cookies to go and a cinnamon toast crack milkshake, which was quite honestly the perfect summer treat (#treatyoself).
Then, it was a hustle back down to the bus stop for our trip home. Summer is winding down for me–I start classes on Monday–but this was the best way I could’ve asked to finish off August and kick back into gear for school.
Marvin’s Room is a Roundabout Theatre Company production playing at the American Airlines Theatre through August 27. For tickets and more information, visit roundabouttheatre.org.
What are your favorite NYC summer activities? Let me know in the comments below!
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