Photo: Harry Fellows

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Opening Night:
August 7, 2014
August 28, 2014

Theater: Cherry Lane Theatre / 38 Commerce Street, New York, NY, 10014


When Bruce and Sue meet four weeks after an uncharacteristic one-night-stand, Sue has to say to him: one, I had a great time with you that night and two, let's never see each other again. Thus begins a 4,000 mile journey well beyond the confines of their carefully structured worlds. Bruce is fuelded by an overwhelming but undefined compulsion to join her in Phoenix. Sue is reluctantly charmed by his persistence, but steadfast in her resolve to keep him at bay. Both are forced to consider a whole new world of possibility, though not one free of difficulty and loss. Phoenix is a one-act dark romantic comedy.


    For 3rd Date, a Trip to an Abortion Clinic ‘Phoenix,’ Starring Julia Stiles, at the Cherry Lane Theater

    Alexis Soloski

    August 7, 2014: When Scott Organ’s Phoenix begins, Bruce and Sue are on their second date. It isn’t going well. “I can’t see you anymore,” Sue says. She makes this declaration after she’s rated their drunken night together “better than most,” but before she’s revealed that a faulty condom has left her pregnant, and that she intends to terminate the pregnancy. Ah, young love. Unlikely as it seems, Mr. Organ’s play is more or less a romance, a more mannerly and somewhat less likely counterpart to the recent movie comedy Obvious Child. First seen at the Humana Festival in 2010, Phoenix is being revived by Rattlestick Theater and a few other producers at the Cherry Lane. Julia Stiles plays Sue, a visiting nurse with defense mechanisms sturdy enough to repel a Mongol horde. Yet she can’t seem to deter Bruce (James Wirt). He insists on tagging along to the abortion, gassing up his Taurus when she tells him she’s chosen a clinic in Phoenix. Even Bruce is moved to joke about restraining orders. Like many of Mr. Organ’s jokes, it’s only sort of funny.


    Julia Stiles and James Wirt star as a pair dealing with the end results of a one-night stand in Scott Organ's will-they-or-won't-they rom-com

    David Gordon

    August 7, 2014: What happens when a one-night stand leads to something more? That question seems to be floating around the mind of playwright Scott Organ, who tries to figure out the answer in a 70-minute one-act titled Phoenix. Premiering in 2010 at the Humana Festival and making its off-Broadway debut the same year at Barrow Group Theatre, the two-character romantic comedy-drama is currently receiving a somewhat-higher-profile revival at the Cherry Lane Theatre, starring established stage and screen vet Julia Stiles and up-and-comer James Wirt. While it's no doubt that they have chemistry, neither is able to mask the lackadaisical quality of the script and Jennifer DeLia's amateurish direction. Stiles and Wirt play Sue and Bruce, a pair of rather aimless New York 30somethings who hooked up one night, three months prior to the play's start, after a particularly intense game of bar trivia. Sue promptly skipped town — she's a traveling nurse — only to show up on Bruce's doorstep (well, at a mutually-decided-upon bar) with an unexpected plus-one growing inside her. When she declares that she's planning to "take care of it" alone — in Phoenix, Arizona — Bruce insists on crossing the country to accompany her. In Organ's hands, Sue and Bruce are little more than sketches of characters who aren't colored in with pasts — it's almost as though the play was intended to be an acting-school exercise. At least Sue, a cipher of a character who undergoes an extremely jarring eleventh-hour shift in personality, reveals what little biographical details she has: two cats that live with her mother. Bruce, on the other hand, has no job to speak of, no family, nor anything else. The dialogue — short, clipped sentences — comes off as stilted, theatrical representations of the way people speak in real life, as opposed to actually sounding human.


    Julia Stiles and James Wirt co-star in this Off-Broadway romantic comedy by Scott Organ

    Frank Scheck

    August 7, 2014: In the opening scene of Phoenix, a young woman reuniting with the man with whom she had a one-night stand a month earlier announces that she has three things to say to him. Anyone who’s ever dated immediately knows that things are not going to turn out well. And so it goes in Scott Organ’s two-hander romantic comedy co-starring Julia Stiles, returning to the New York stage after acclaimed turns in Oleanna and Twelfth Night, and James Wirt, soon to be seen in the indie feature Billy Bates. The three things that Sue (Stiles) has to say to James (Wirt) during their meeting in a trendy NYC bar are that she had a great time with him that night; that she can’t see him anymore; and, oh, yes, she’s pregnant. This comes as no small surprise to James, who had previously been told that he was unable to have children. He’s also disappointed to learn that Sue has no interest in pursuing the relationship. But when she tells him that she plans to terminate the pregnancy, he nonetheless gallantly offers to accompany her to the abortion clinic, to which she reluctantly agrees. There’s only one hitch: it’s in Phoenix, Arizona, where she’s about to relocate.


    Comedy about unintended pregnancy with Julia Stiles and James Wirt ends up in barren territory

    Joe Dziemianowicz

    August 7, 2014: The preshow spiel at Phoenix includes the usual announcement about silencing cell phones, plus there’s an atypical tip: “Always use protection.” Good advice. Too bad condoms don’t guard against insufferable plays, like this two-character comedy starring Julia Stiles and James Wirt. Phoenix is about the consequences of an unlikely one-night stand. It’s a Knocked Up redux, right? Not really. Stop reading now to avoid spoilers. The story shares similarities with the Seth Rogen-Katherine Heigl flick, but the play takes a major detour — to an abortion clinic. Meeting cute just got edgier. Stiles (Oleanna and the Bourne trilogy) plays Sue, a traveling nurse with a brittle personality and a flexible physique. We know she’s nimble because she does yoga poses during a phone call. Wirt is Bruce, odd but cute, and with an impressive T-shirt collection. We know that because he changes tees on stage between scenes. Before his fling with Sue, he believed he couldn’t father a child. Surprise!


    Has No One Associated With Phoenix Ever Seen a Play Before?

    Jesse Green

    August 7, 2014: What hath Godot wrought? The pregnant, performative style of stage dialogue revolutionized by Beckett and honed by Pinter has, over the years, devolved into a cheap lingua franca used by playwrights as high-gloss varnish on their piddly dramedies and rom-coms. In the latter category is Scott Organ’s Phoenix, a two-hander featuring no existential dread, but plenty of dreadful conversations. These consist mostly of feints and gambits that curlicue endlessly around nothing: SUE: There’s good weird and there’s bad weird. BRUCE: Right. Bad, like, come look at my homemade chain-mail armor that I made with my own two hands ... SUE: You have chain-mail armor? BRUCE: No, I’m saying if ... SUE: Yes. And no. There’s worse weird, believe me. BRUCE: Or I’m in a barbershop quartet. SUE: Depends. I feel like some guys could pull that off. BRUCE: I’m not in one. SUE: Depending on who you are. BRUCE. I’m not in one. SUE: That’s fine. BRUCE: Do you think that I should look into it? SUE: A barbershop quartet? BRUCE: Yes. SUE: No. BRUCE: Then we are agreed. This vapid patter from the first scene, like most of the rest of the play, has little purpose but to fill time between plot announcements that are spaced like telephone poles across a desert. You see everything coming from miles away.



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