Arlene Hutton, the author of Running, is certainly a talented playwright: her earlier work, Last Train to Nibroc was the first FringeNYC production to transfer Off-Broadway and her plays have since been produced around the world. Seth Barrish (Stephen) and Lee Brock (Emily), for whom Running was written and who are husband and wife in real life, are also excellent actors. Understandably, then, it was with great anticipation that I attended an early performance of Running at FringeNYC.
Alas, I was sadly disappointed. To be sure, Ms. Hutton created interesting characters in Stephen and Emily and a mildly intriguing situation at the outset of her play and she does have a fine ear for dialogue. And both Mr. Barrish and Ms. Brock played the roles that were written for them extremely well. But having said that, I found that the play rapidly petered out with any number of loose ends not being tied up and my not really caring that they hadn’t been.
The story line is rather simple. Emily arrives unexpectedly from London at Stephen’s home in Manhattan on the night before he plans to run his first marathon and while Stephanie, Stephen’s wife and Emily’s former roommate, is out of town (in London, herself, as it turns out). When Emily comes on to Stephen, the questions rapidly proliferate. Will he sleep with her and jeopardize his race – and maybe his marriage and self-image as well? Why did Emily show up in the first place: does she have some hidden agenda or ulterior motive? Why weren’t Emily and Stephanie in touch with one another in London? Indeed, what is Emily’s relationship with Stephanie anyway? Are Emily’s recollections of the time she smoked pot and lost her virginity true memories or just fantasies or outright lies? What really is the state of Stephen’s and Stephanie’s marriage? Is Emily fragile or traumatized or kooky or outright crazy? Is Stephen a “good guy” or a nebbish or a mildly agoraphobic loser himself?
I won’t ruin the play for you by telling you whether or not Stephen sleeps with Emily and what happens with his big race but I will tell you this about the other questions: most of them remain unanswered but, by the time the play ends, I don’t think you’ll care. Ms. Hutton, Mr. Barrish and Ms. Brock are all highly talented professionals but, unfortunately, their talents are not evident in this production.