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The Net Will Appear

Theatre Review by Howard Miller - December 12, 2018

Eve Johnson and Richard Masur
Photo by Jody Christopherson

Friendship sometimes comes in the most unexpected of packages. This is especially true when you need it the most, as is comically and touchingly demonstrated in playwright Erin Mallon's gentle two-hander, The Net Will Appear, opening today at 59E59 Theaters.

The play, about two neighbors with seemingly nothing in common, not the least of which is a 65-year age gap, features a richly nuanced performance by long-time theater, film, and television actor Richard Masur. He plays Bernard, an aging military vet who likes to sit on a lounge chair on his rooftop, whiling away the hours sipping Jim Beam and trying to catch sparrows in the mousetraps he has attached to nearby tree limbs.

His opposite is a new neighbor living in the house next door, 9-going-on-10 Rory, a role charmingly played by Eve Johnson, who is the same age as her character. Rory has taken an interest in Bernard, and he tolerates her chattiness across the physical and metaphorical divide between them as a distraction from his own often unhappy thoughts. Rory is as precocious and curious a fifth grader as you are likely to encounter, teeming with wisdom (betcha you didn't know that Dalmatians are prone to deafness and bladder stones) and the living embodiment of the saying that "little pitchers have big ears" as she overshares many of the things she has heard from the adults in her life.

Over the course of the play's compact 75 minutes, what surprises most is how empathetic we grow to both characters. While the setup covers territory we've seen before (though it's usually about a grandparent/grandchild relationship), the playwright wins us over by feeding us information about Bernard and Rory in bits and pieces, allowing each to show their authenticity and vulnerability in subtle ways. Bernard holds his cards close to his chest; after all, how much is he going to share about his life with a young girl he barely knows? And Rory, while revealing much about her own un-nurtured life, is all innocence (well, except for her sometimes colorful language), making her all the more sympathetic to both Bernard and us, despite her ceaseless motormouth.

The pair play beautifully off each other, and Mr. Masur, in particular, gives an exceptional performance in what might be thought of as a grumpy old man role by capturing the essence of someone whose life has been touched with moments of deep sadness yet who is still able to give and receive warmth and kindness from a kindred spirit. All told, The Net Will Appear, directed with a soft touch by Mark Cirnigliaro, is a sweet and lovely little gem of a play.

The Net Will Appear
Through December 30
59E59 Theaters, Theater B, 59 East 59th Street between Madison and Park Avenues
Tickets online and current Performance Schedule: