Part of the Midtown International Theatre Festival
Julia & Buddy is a play incurably plagued by the author’s literary obsessions, lack of chemistry, and void of storytelling.
It saddens me to come down so hard on writer/director N.G. McClernan, who has dedicated countless admirable hours helping fellow writers on nycplaywrights.org. She’s not the kind of person I would peg for an infatuation with nihilistic German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer; McClernan’s play so relentlessly revolves around his writings that the story of an agoraphobic philosophy professor and a brain-damaged actor/handyman serves as mere lubricant to discuss the author’s topic du jour.
Lead actors Claire Warden and Matthew DeCapua have no time for romantic friction as they struggle through the stodgy script. Julia and Buddy begin a romance when Buddy tries to fix the front door to Julia’s apartment. Warden’s Julia must choose between her affection for the plainspoken Buddy and her intellectual superiority complex. DeCapua’s Buddy is not so much a character as a myriad of unrelated character quirks, making his pursuit of Julia vacant, terse, almost predatory.
The play gives no reason for Julia to actually like Buddy aside from his ‘cute butt.’ (mentioned ad-nauseum) McClernan is content to slap acting a few seizures onto Buddy’s backstory and call it a day, but what he and Julia actually do or want for one another (aside from very good sex) is non-existent. With no compelling reason for the pair to be together, McClernan gives us no desire to watch her lightly-camouflaged philosophy lesson unfold.
Julia & Buddy is practically Kantian in it’s mission, discussing Schopenhauer ‘though the world (of the play) burns.’ Julia even has hallucinatory discussion with Mr. Schopenhauer a la 33 Variations, but unlike 33 Variations in which a cancer-riddled character careens towards death, Julia & Buddy gives us no stakes to speak of, only forced relationship conflict, uninspired revelations, and bookish wheel-spinning.
Appropriate that a play about Schopenhauer would be a trivial hour of agony. A tragic misfire from an artist so deserving of respect. I can only hope this play has helped Ms. McClernan iron out her philosophical kinks, clearing the way for more cohesive work in the future.