The problem with Melissa James Gibson's new play This is that there isn't enough this and entirely too much that and the other; it's an especially grim example of a playwright churning out reams of dialogue that have little or nothing to do with character or plot and everything to do with wherever their mind wanders next. Gibson doesn't have much going on in the way of conflict, but that suits her need to stuff her play full of random, uniformly uninteresting observations. The lead character, Jane (Julianne Nicholson) is a passive recent widow who half-heartedly jumps into bed with Tom (Darren Pettie) the husband of one of her best friends, Marrell (Eisa Davis). On the periphery of this situation are Alan, a stock gay friend (Glenn Fitzgerald) and Jean-Pierre, a stock Frenchman (Louis Cancelmi), both of whom behave in stereotypical ways while the main triangle hems and haws in language that is so stiffly formal, so clearly "written," that Gibson could be conducting a post-graduate seminar in bad first draft scripting.
Parker Posey was originally slated to play Jane, but bowed out due to illness; it's hard to imagine she would have consented to appear in such a labored, not even half-baked play (then again, Posey did star in Elaine May's dusty "from the bottom drawer" horror Taller Than a Dwarf a few years ago on Broadway). Nicholson plays in Posey's patented style of deadpan urban sweetness, but without the hard edges Posey brings to her best work. It's very difficult to care about Jane's plight, mainly because she herself seems to forget about it for such long stretches; she's so busy making disposable remarks (the word "blog" sounds to her like an accumulation of snot, etc.) that when she winds up rubbing her dead husband's ashes all over her chest, it feels less like a desperate move and more like a way of ending the show, even if she then goes on to another extended and highly cut-able monologue to her unseen daughter.
This is "throw anything into the pot" theater at its dreariest; sometimes Davis's Marrell croons us a generic song (her character is a jazz singer) while sets are being changed, and these set changes are quite unwieldy and even confusing. A door is placed on a hinge whenever Tom visits Jane; this takes a while, and the visual effect is ugly and bewildering (maybe it's supposed to remind us that Tom makes cabinets for a living?). Fitzgerald has the one interesting scene in the play, a television vaudeville act where his character functions as a kind of Mr. Memory, and he works hard to make Alan more than just another wisecracking gay caretaker for the straights. Sometimes he succeeds in drawing you in to some original vocal rhythms that suggest that Alan might be worth getting to know outside of his role as nanny and jokemaker, but in the big confrontation scene at the end, which comes as a small relief after all the play's idle chatter, Alan's freakish memory is revealed as merely a plot device that helps Tom and Marrell remember a crucial argument. This runs close to two hours with no intermission, which is a considerable endurance test and a desperate but perhaps necessary "don't leave" ploy. Before exiting, Cancelmi's rakish French doctor remarks that the "this" of Gibson's adultery plot is puny in comparison with the "that" of his humanitarian work in Africa, and that's the only sensible line in this very poor play.