For years, Matthew Broderick has been playing a string of milquetoast characters on stage (The Odd Couple in 2005-06, The Philanthropist last spring) to ever diminishing returns. He reaches a new nadir as the star of Kenneth Lonergan’s dispiriting new play, The Starry Messenger, which opened Off Broadway on Monday. Broderick stars as a 40-something astronomy instructor in New York City, the married father of a teenage son, a low-level academic recently passed over for a big job. This sad sack fellow inexplicably embarks on an affair with a much younger Puerto Rican nurse trainee (Catalina Sandino Moreno of Maria Full of Grace).
There are speeches about astronomy and atheism and love and the meaning of life, but none of it coheres. There are occasional flashes of wit, most involving a blunt-talking astronomy student played by Kieran Culkin or the nurse’s take-no-guff geriatric patient (Merwin Goldsmith). But these only serve to remind us that the central narrative is pure dullsville. Broderick does his usual affectless routine, but his performance is so listless and his delivery so monotone that it’s impossible to care about him. (An elderly woman seated in front of me described his performance as ”amateurish.” It’s hard to disagree) Lonergan does himself no favors by directing his own show, which is both overstuffed (the show runs two and a half hours) and underwritten. Grade: D
(Tickets: Ticketcentral.com or 212.279.4200)