It All Comes Out in the Wash at ‘Brooklyn Laundry ‘

David Zayas and Cecily Strong in Brooklyn Laundry at the Manhattan Theatre Club. Jeremy Daniel

Brooklyn Laundry | 1hr 20mins. No intermission. | Manhattan Theatre Club | 131 West 55th St | 212-581-1212

Would it surprise you to learn that John Patrick Shanley has a new play about heartsore New Yorkers falling noisily in love? Probably not. Shanley is to feisty, love-starved Gothamites what David Mamet is to…well, assholes in suits. Forty years ago, his couples were violent, potty-mouthed outcasts, but they’ve aged into some measure of grace and wisdom—even if total honesty remains elusive. In Brooklyn Laundry, the veteran playwright-director tosses together two soiled souls, adds softener, and gives ’em a whirl.

True to its title, the first scene of this compact (but emotionally sprawling) tale takes place in a laundromat owned by Owen (David Zayas), an affable, middle-aged lug whose flirty demeanor masks a number of wounds. Fran (Cecily Strong) doesn’t bother with brave fronts; her boyfriend left her, she’s got a sister dying of cancer, and she doesn’t care if the world sees a harried sourpuss. Placing her “little bag of rags” in a wheeled cart, Owen wistfully observes that Fran reminds him of the fiancée who left him. She was, he recalls, “smart, one inch from terrific, but gloomy.” Fran shoots him a withering look. “I don’t think I’m gloomy. I think what I’m suffering from is reality.”

Cecily Strong and Florencia Lozano in Brooklyn Laundry. Jeremy Daniel

In fact the collision of reality and romance is what defines the affair between these two. Owen mischievously asks Fran out to dinner and she guardedly accepts. What follows in the next 75 minutes is classic Shanley romcom with the 73-year-old writer noticeably dwelling on mortality and last chances. Strong plays two of the five scenes with Fran’s sisters, two in the laundromat with Owen, and one on a quirky date with him. The first sister, Trish (Florencia Lozano) lives in a trailer in Pennsylvania with her kids, sucking oxygen and gobbling painkillers in the final throes of cancer. Relating fantastic drug dreams and rhapsodizing over their childhood, Lozano is sensational, exuding fiery vitality and innocence even at the threshold of death. Both actors playing Fran’s siblings are terrific; in a later scene, Susie (the powerhouse Andrea Syglowski) has a brutal argument with Fran, who fears losing Owen if she reveals the full extent of her family problems (disease and bad marriage are recurring motifs). Trish is whimsical and sensual; Susie is bossy and pragmatic. Middle child Fran has to find the middle ground between them—between reality and romance—if she and Owen are to grab a piece of happiness.

David Zayas and Cecily Strong in Brooklyn Laundry. Jeremy Daniel

Individually, the scenes are charming and well-executed, and Shanley has always churned out spontaneous, fanciful dialogue by the yard. Owen and Fran’s date—she shows up slightly high from a bite of magic mushroom chocolate—becomes a philosophical meditation on desire and acceptance when she discovers that chicken is not served at the impressive outdoor grill (light effects courtesy of Brian MacDevitt):


But I want chicken.


And this is exactly when reality becomes super important. You must choose from what exists on the menu, Fran, and not choose the invisible thing in your mind.


But I like the invisible thing best.


That’s the romantic bullshit, and I’m against it. It robs people of their actual lives.

What is an actual life, though, stripped of irrational want? As often with Shanley, there are excellent questions and blessedly few answers. (Even when the moral stakes are as high as they are in his superior 2004 “parable” Doubt, now in revival.) But for all its cosmic wonderment and some traumatic reveals, Brooklyn Laundry can feel rushed and slight, in spite of a solid cast and handsome design. (Santo Loquasto’s four-chamber revolving set packs four vibrant worlds into a relatively small space.) Strong and Zayas have frisky, palpable chemistry and it’s easy to root for Fran and Owen, but their journey from meet-cute to final embrace lacks crucial middle steps for a truly satisfying ending. It appears the dress came out shrunk, the colors ran a bit, and now it doesn’t fit so well; I’d demand store credit. 

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Review: It All Comes Out in the Wash at John Patrick Shanley’s ‘Brooklyn Laundry ‘

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