Nicky Silver's latest comedy, Fit To Be Tied, opened Oct. 20 to mixed reviews in New York.
In his tremendously positive Village Voice review (Oct. 29), Michael Feingold wrote, "Nicky Silver has been thinking about dramatic structure again, and I for one am delighted with the result... the happy ending is earned, sort of, while making it clear that Sliver thinks happiness itself, in this world, can never be more than sort-of anyhow. The world's to laugh at, and the script makes you do a lot of laughing... And then there is Jean Smart, in a performance so astonishing that any description would spoil it, and no description, however detailed, could possibly match it."
Clive Barnes, writing for the NY Post, chimed in with, "Silver strikes gold when he's being funny. Here he is very funny indeed, and the more outrageous he becomes, the funnier he gets... The playwrights Horizons production seems pretty much flawless, from Warren's razor-edged staging, the elegant sets by James Youmans, and the brilliantly judged acting... The surprise is [Jean] Smart as Nessa. She is wondrous as a clown with a load of guilt...suggest[ing] that seriousness which Silver doubtless wanted yet couldn't fully integrate into his text."
Ben Brantley likened Fit To Be Tied to Six Degrees Of Separation, though without the latter work's depth. Of Silver, the Times critic wrote, "Anyone familiar with this gifted playwright's earlier works will know that for Silver love is as mysterious and elusive as a glimpse of paradise.... Fit to Be Tied is often as desperate as its characters, but that never extinguishes the touching, double-edged glow at its center..."
"Yet there is much in the comedy that doesn't fit together," said Brantley. "Silver has constructed an elaborate geometry of relationships: between Arloc and Boyd; Arloc and his vain, alcoholic mother, Nessa (Jean Smart), who leaves her elderly, health-obsessed husband, Carl (Dick Latessa), to move in with her son... It is not, however, the tangle of liaisons that makes the play seem muddled, although Latessa's character is probably one too many. No, it is Silver's overeager use of symbols, assorted dramatic devices and references to other works and writers that gets out of hand..." "Like its isolated, unconfident hero," continued Brantley, "the play itself seems to yearn to be liked and understood. Fit to Be Tied has moments as funny and as poignant as anything from Silver's Food Chain and Raised in Captivity. But there's the abiding sense of an author resorting to whatever means are required to get and hold attention on a moment-by-moment basis, without making the necessary connections. One wishes Silver would concentrate more on defining his characters from within, rather than giving them outlandish things to do. Only Ms. [Jean] Smart, in a beautifully timed performance that gives equal weight to her character's frivolity and to its gnawing moral conscience, is able A in a fully integrated performance. Both the role (which directly recalls the mothers from Silver's Pterodactyls and Fat Men in Skirts) and the actress are asked to carry disproportionate weight."
We get an immediate sense of Howard Kissel's feelings about the play when he begins his Daily News review by calling Fit To Be Tied "yet another forced comedy by Nicky Silver." He continues: "Into this farrago Silver introduces a note of seriousness: Arloc is nervous about his health. In this case, alluding to AIDS only heightens the play's factitiousness. I have nothing against artifice if I believe the characters and their situations have even a remote grounding in the real world. In Silver's plays, they don't."
"You know how strained this one is from the start, because the tone is hysterical. It's as if Silver and his collaborator, director David Warren, imagined we might overlook the silliness of it all unless it were narrated as excitedly as someone reporting a fire. The actors handle their assignments well. Jean Smart does a virtuoso job with Nessa. T. Scott Cunningham is plausible as Arloc, Matt Keeslar comely as Boyd, and Dick Latessa strong in the needless role of Carl."
For more information on Fit To Be Tied, which has already extended its sold-out run to Nov. 10, please hyperlink to our story of Oct. 17.