Life in the Capital of Urban Angst

BABYLON GARDENSPlay by Timothy Mason. Directed by Joe Mantello. At the Circle Repertory Theatre through Nov. 3. 'BABYLON GARDENS" closely observes - if it does not illuminate - the lives of assorted Lower East Side Manhattanites. The observation begins with a party hosted by Bill (Timothy Hutton), a drug-abusing nurse, and his wife Jean (Mary-Louise Parker), a painter, whose recent childbirth tragedy has left her mentally unstable. Through a series of mostly one-on-one encounters, playwright Timothy Mason scrutinizes the lives of Bill and Jean, their friends, and the neighborhood casuals who complete this cross-sectional view of life in the capital of urban Angst. Principal among the peripheral characters are Molly (Bobo Lewis), one of Bill's elderly patients, and Opal (Cynthia Martells), a homeless black woman who camps on Bill's doorstep, receives his charity, and ultimately haunts his apartment. In a Playbill quote, Mr. Mason borrows the verse from Deuteronomy: "But the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it." While the characters are endlessly articulate, their status-quo situation offers the spectator little hope in the way of resolution. "Babylon Gardens" suggests a group therapy session without the therapy. Will any of these Greenwich Village denizens beat the big city? The odds are against it. Under Joe Mantello's sympathetic direction, Mr. Hu tton, Ms. Parker, and company do their best to enliven this portrait of big-city life among the semi-poor. The cast includes Steve Bassett, Lea Floden, Bruce McCarty, Cordelia Richards, Robert Jimenez, and Hector M. Estrada. The bleak atmospherics for the latter-day Babylon are provided by Circle Repertory Company designers Loy Arcenas (setting), Toni-Leslie James (costumes), and Dennis Parichy and Michael J. Baldassari (lighting).

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