Photo: Sara Krulwich


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Opening Night:
August 17, 2014
September 7, 2014

Theater: Duke on 42nd Street / 229 West 42nd Street, New York, NY, 10036


Theresa Rebeck, the creator of NBC's "Smash" and the writer of such hit plays as Seminar, Mauritius, and The Understudy, presents a devilish argument about infidelity and America in this new comedy about two couples spending a not-so-idyllic weekend in the country. Poor Behavior is be directed by Evan Cabnet (The Model Apartment, A Kid Like Jake).


    A Relaxing Country Weekend (Armor Optional) Evan Cabnet Directs Theresa Rebeck’s ‘Poor Behavior’

    Alexis Soloski

    August 17, 2014: Theresa Rebeck’s assertively glib Poor Behavior, at Primary Stages, takes place at a weekend getaway — provided your idea of a getaway is Napoleon’s retreat from Russia. Peter and Ella have invited Maureen and Ian to their country cottage for wine and chatter. Before a day has passed, egos are bruised and hearts battered. There’s also a potential suicide and an assault with a frying pan. The drama begins after a boozy dinner. Wine bottles clutter the kitchen island and the conversation has turned slurry and heated. Ella (Katie Kreisler) wants to talk about what constitutes goodness, while Ian (Brian Avers) insists there’s no such thing. This is the sort of argument that flummoxes great philosophers. Here the dialogue quickly descends into quotations from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and a discussion of whether or not trees are moral. (Verbal pyrotechnics aren’t really Ms. Rebeck’s thing. But trees, which also loomed over her recent Broadway play, Dead Accounts, apparently are.) Soon Peter (Jeff Biehl) and Maureen (Heidi Armbruster) slip off to bed, leaving Ian and Ella to debate the ethics of Yosemite. Their conversation gradually grows more personal. When Maureen wanders back into the kitchen, she finds them in a near embrace. Is the clinch comforting or erotic? Maureen decides it’s adulterous. The weekend devolves from there.


    Couples behave badly in Rebeck’s ‘Poor Behavior’

    Elisabeth Vincentelli

    August 18, 2014: Many stories about a get-together or reunion build up to a big, cathartic blow-up. Theresa Rebeck’s new play, Poor Behavior, opens with one. And it’s all downhill from there for the show’s two couples, who were getting ready for a weekend of gourmet muffins and country-house loafing upstate. The reason the getaway goes horribly wrong is simple: One of the four characters, Ian (Brian Avers), is a total sociopath. The Irishman starts off as your run-of-the-mill sort-of-charming rogue, the kind of guy who pretends not to know the difference between being opinionated and being rude. We first see him in the middle of a heated argument with one of his hosts, Ella (Katie Kreisler), hurling insults at her and her countrymen — “You still coo about this idea of American exceptionalism,” Ian says among other niceties, “so yes that makes you a crazy f–king American.” It’s not long before we realize this guy’s not a truth-teller, but a jerk. In a normal world — that is, one where a playwright doesn’t need two hours’ worth of material — Ella and her husband, Peter (Jeff Biehl), would have gotten Ian’s number early enough and forcefully ejected his toxic ass.

  • NBC NEW YORK REVIEW OF Poor Behavior

    Review: Theresa Rebeck Encourages "Poor Behavior," at The Duke

    Robert Kahn

    August 18, 2014: The stakes start out deceptively slight in “Poor Behavior,” the new Theresa Rebeck comedy that’s just opened at The Duke on 42nd Street. As the play gets underway, two couples are enjoying a wine-fueled discussion about “goodness,” and whether it exists in some pure form. “Trees are good,” argues one. “If a tree falls on your house, that’s not a good tree,” counters another, with the kind of breezy, we’re-so-evolved flair reminiscent of Yasmina Reza’s 2006 “God of Carnage,” a similarly dark comedy about two couples who meet to discuss an issue in a “civilized” fashion. Alas, there’s carnage in store for Rebeck’s four weekenders, as it turns out—though mercifully, the only thing being upchucked here is the occasional prissy tomato confit muffin. The “goodness” set-up is a precursor to the real topics at hand: fidelity and morality. We’re here to examine when one should stop to consider the impact of his actions on another, and to wonder: What happens if we behave with no one else’s feelings in mind?


    Theresa Rebeck's comedy concerns two married couples spending a less than idyllic weekend together

    Frank Scheck

    August 18, 2014: “Goodness is just an anesthetic,” declares one of the characters in Theresa Rebeck’s comedy receiving its New York premiere courtesy of Off-Broadway’s Primary Stages. It’s but one of the many intellectual arguments espoused in this comedy of ideas about two married couples spending the weekend together at a country home. Unfortunately, while the work displays the playwright’s gift for snappy dialogue, it explores its themes in mostly superficial fashion. It mainly comes across as a poor man’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Set entirely in the kitchen of an upstate New York house, it begins, appropriately enough, with an impassioned drunken argument about the nature of goodness between Irish expat Ian (Brian Avers) and Ella (Katie Kreisler). Looking on with increasing discomfort are Ian’s wife Maureen (Heidi Armbruster) and Ella’s husband Peter (Jeff Biehl). The concept of goodness gets sorely tested over the next twenty-four hours, as a tenderly romantic late-night clinch between Ian and Ella, precipitated by his emotional recounting of the recent death of his father, is witnessed by the already paranoid Maureen. The issue comes to the fore the next morning, when Maureen bitterly confronts Ian, who perversely lets her think that he and Ella have been having an affair. The fur really begins to fly when she informs Peter, who refuses to believe that his wife has been unfaithful.


    Infidelity and passive-aggressive chitchat star in Theresa Rebeck's morality tale about moral relativism

    Zachary Stewart

    August 18, 2014: Beware the charming and scruffy Irishman with the gift of gab. That's the biggest takeaway from Theresa Rebeck's Poor Behavior, now making its New York debut with Primary Stages at the Duke on 42nd Street. There's plenty to enjoy in this high-decibel dramedy about the weekend getaway from hell, provided you embrace Rebeck's contrivance for what it is. The play takes place in the upstate country home of Peter (Jeff Biehl) and Ella (Katie Kreisler). Before we even meet them, Lauren Helpern's painstakingly detailed set feeds us obvious clues about the nature of our dramatis personae: a crate of Pellegrino, a bag of Fairway coffee, ski equipment in the corner. Out of this blue-ribbon diorama ("yuppies in their natural habitat") emerges a gaggle of effete Manhattanites drawn in such broad strokes they could have walked out of a New Yorker cartoon. Sound designer Jill BC Du Boff's classical underscoring of the opening blackout (the third movement of Beethoven's "Moonlight" Sonata) hints at the presto agitato tone of what is to come. Naturally, the play starts in the middle of a full-blown debate about moral relativism, shouted over bulbous goblets of NPR-recommended Hungarian wine. The primary combatants in this debate are lady of the house Ella and houseguest Ian (Brian Avers), a witty and arrogant Irish émigré. Ella believes that you can objectively label things as "beautiful" (Yosemite Valley) and "good" (red wine). Ian thinks those terms are just the product of outmoded morality. Ian's wife, Maureen (Heidi Armbruster), and Peter look on in horror as the argument descends into name-calling. Once their spouses leave the room, however, Ian and Ella are far tenderer with each other, much to Maureen's horror. The weekend slowly and painfully unravels from there, as adult niceties cede to violent emotional outbursts.



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