Marc Acito’s jumpy, effortful play is, charitably, children’s theater for adults, which makes sense, since it’s tangentially based on Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson’s picture book And Tango Makes Three. Its main characters are two anthropomorphized animal couples—Silo and Roy, the famous male penguins in Central Park Zoo that pair-bonded and parented, and Pale Male and Lola, the equally famous red-tailed hawks that nested atop Paula Zahn’s Manhattan co-op—but their problems (jealousy, infidelity, anticapitalist angst, internalized homophobia) are decidedly grown-up. It’s a promising setup, but Acito paints most everything in such broad strokes that the story never takes flight.
Acito seems to want to explore the myriad travails of long-term relationships (and to lecture about tolerance), but he concocts such cartoonishly mismatched protagonists it’s difficult to care about their romantic travails. Silo is brooding while Roy is flighty. Pale Male is cocky while Lola is sensitive. Both relationships, which form the emotional core of the show, seem designed to disintegrate. More successfully drawn are the Zookeeper and the Birder, lonely urbanites whose numerous insecurities keep them perpetually single. And entirely unsuccessfully are drawn a third couple, Zahn and her real estate developer husband Richard Cohen, who do little but epitomize wealthy self-absorption.
Acito touches on numerous pressing social issues—gender self-determination, marriage equality, the pathological lust for Internet notoriety—without developing them. And while the four-person cast show impressive range and depth, especially given the material, director Jacob Harvey often pushes them to breathless extremes that rob the evening of subtlety and truth. v