The Four of Us at Theatre J

You know that friend you have that beats you to everything? Dave (played brilliantly by the amazing Karl Miller) has that friend. His name is Ben, and at the beginning of the play, Ben has just sold his first novel to a publisher for an obscene amount of money. It's going to be published internationally and Ben is about to embark on his first book tour. And the hits just keep on coming throughout the play, splendidly written by Itamar Moses. Dave is a struggling playwright who needs the world to see what he's doing to make him believe that it's real. Ben, however, doesn't seem to need anyone. He's a bit of an unlikable character, and Dan Crane does an exceptional job of making him kind of an asshole.

Set against a background of moving panels that look like stained glass windows, Miller and Crane take the audience on a journey spanning more than 10 years and the struggles their friendship has gone through. Scenic designer Tony Cisek never gives away the exact location, but the moving panels give the barest suggestion as to where the action is happening, be it a dorm room or an apartment in Prague. This is helped by the lovely lighting design by Colin K. Bills. The quick, witty script pulls you into the story almost as soon as it starts. We begin in a restaurant, where Dave is treating Ben to lunch, celebrating the sale of his novel. Miller seems much more comfortable than Crane with the casual conversation that Moses has created. He gets better as time goes on, but never completely loses his stiffness. It feels like he's mostly just saying the lines.

I'd speak about the title, but I think it's explained in the second-to-last scene of the play, so I'll keep my mouth shut and let you decide. The show runs an hour and 45 minutes with no intermission, and at first I was worried that just 2 people wouldn't be able to carry my interest for that long. Obviously, I was wrong. Also, I should've realized that just watching Miller's gestures would keep me entertained for much longer than that.

The Four of Us
by Itamar Moses
directed by Daniel de Raey
Theatre J
Running through February 21


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