Real-life couple Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation) and Megan Mullally (name a sitcom and she’s done an arc) go for anything but laughs in Annapurna, a two-person drama about love, loss, and not remembering why you lost that love. (The New Group production runs through June 1 at Off Broadway’s Acorn Theatre.) Offerman plays Ulysses, a former celebrated poet and professor, now withering away in a bug-infested trailer in ”the ass crack of the Rockies.” He’s perfectly pathetic, shuffling around in nothing but a filthy apron and a backpack with an oxygen tank that pumps air through a nose tube to his failing lungs, and frying up rancid sausage for his relentless barker of a dog. That is until his ex-wife, Emma (Mullally), barrels in with all kinds of luggage, emotional and literal.
The 90 minutes of banter — sometimes heartbreaking, always sharp — revolves around why Emma left Ulysses in the middle of the night two decades earlier with their son, now 25. The build-up is so strong to those final moments when Ulysses’ actions are finally revealed that you expect a Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? climax. Sharr White’s script doesn’t pack the same emotional gut punch, but that’s no reason to dismiss this fine work. White’s dialogue pops, especially when the extraordinary Offerman adroitly hops from desperate to lovestruck to angry to devastated. If that?s not enough Offerman for you, be sure to sit in the left side of the audience. You’ll never think of him as cheeky in quite the same way again. B+