Review: In ‘Plano,’ 2 Multiplying Husbands Outnumber 3 Sisters

Posted June 24, 2018 8:04 p.m. EDT

NEW YORK — Meet Steve. He’s a blandly cheery white guy, originally from Long Island, but living in Dallas for so long by now that he says “y’all.” On the surface, his marriage to Genevieve looks perfect, but then it splits apart and so does he — multiple Steves, variations on a theme, all of them living in Genevieve’s head. And some of them in her house.

Meet John — well, Juan, really; he’s from Mexico. But he always wanted to be a John, and now that he’s married to Anne, Genevieve’s sister, he insists on it. Their union, on his side, may not exactly be a love match. He’s gay, and he needed a green card, and he’s barely around. John has multiple selves, too, but Anne is very, very good at ignoring them.

“Do you mind if we stop talking about John,” she says to her family, and it is not a question. But the women of Will Arbery’s surreal, funny, ultimately muddled “Plano” return and return and return to the subject of their men. If these sisters — Anne (Crystal Finn), Genevieve (Miriam Silverman) and the youngest, Isabel (Susannah Flood) — are cursed, which they believe they are, it is with the need to devote vast emotional acreage to men who do not return the favor.

Part of Clubbed Thumb’s Summerworks series at the Wild Project, this beautifully paced production by Taylor Reynolds is as comically headlong as Arbery’s script, its slip-slide of time fast and ever-shifting. “I’ll introduce him later,” Anne tells her sisters when she first gets together with John (Cesar J. Rosado). Then, instantly: “It’s later, here he is.”

Reynolds, whose excellent cast nails the heightened tone, stages some moments so vividly that they are probably more memorable than the overloaded play: Steve (Ryan King) diving headlong into the porch (the set is by Daniel Zimmerman), where he disappears; Isabel and Anne leaping on Steve in a futile attempt to kill him, using as one of their weapons (Arbery specifies this in a stage direction) a copy of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s “My Struggle: Book One.”

The frustrating thing about “Plano” — which, with its three sisters, implicitly alludes to Chekhov and may make you think fondly of the Magrath sisters, in Beth Henley’s “Crimes of the Heart” — is that the women aren’t really at its center. It’s not that the play is advocating for Steve and John; it is fully aware of their selfish, jerkish, harmful ways. But it is more interested in these characters, so multidimensional that they require plural selves. It feels like a bit of a bait and switch that, for the sisters, such depth is implausibly elusive.

In the interest of mental health and self-actualization, they would do well to take a cue from John.

“The way to get through a curse is to pretend there is no curse,” he says. “OK?”

Production Notes:


Through June 30 at the Wild Project, New York City; 212-260-0153, clubbedthumb.org. Running time: 1 hour 10 minutes.