In Domesticated, Bruce Norris' viciously funny but uneven dark comedy, the magnificent Laurie Metcalf plays a woman who seems all too familiar from cable news (or The Good Wife): the dutiful wife of a politician brought low by a sex scandal. Dressed in a white pant suit as her philandering, prostitute-hiring hubby, Bill (Jeff Goldblum), delivers his apologia/resignation, she stares blankly over his shoulder in effortful self-containment, her face a mask of stricken befuddlement.
Her feelings do not remained buried for long, particularly as she learns both gradually and somewhat improbably the full magnitude of her husband's misdeeds. As her best friend, Bobbie (Mia Barron), tells her at one point, ''You married a gynecologist. A gynecologist who went into politics. Didn't that tell you something?''
Naturally, the philandering gynecologist-turned-pol has a difficult time re-entering his old career, one of many ways in which Norris stacks the deck in his domestic house of cards. None of the characters here are particularly sympathetic not the couple's self-absorbed teenage daughter (Emily Meade), nor Bill's overbearing mom (Mary Beth Peil, essentially reprising her role from The Good Wife), nor the opportunistic mother of his comatose prostitute/victim (Lizbeth Mackay), nor the Oprah-like talk-show host eager to exploit the tragedy for ratings (Karen Pittman) . But even the more benign players like the couple's adopted Asian daughter, Cassidy (Misha Seo) become little more than punchline fodder. (''Does she even speak English?'' Bill asks of the deeply withdrawn girl at one point. Alarmingly, his wife Judy's reply is just as callous: ''I have no idea.'')
Norris, whose Clybourne Park was a Pulitzer and Tony-winning update of A Raisin in the Sun that explored the tricky politics of American race relations, is not content with exploring the raw edges of one political marriage. He strives to make a larger point about modern gender relations and the utility (and possibility) of male monogamy. But despite Anna D. Shapiro's crisp, well-paced direction, Domesticated is better on caustic humor and verbal one-upmanship than real insight or character development. Metcalf comes the closest to creating a woman with genuine shades of hurt beneath the brittle exterior wit. But while the theater consistently rings with laughter, the show seldom rings true. B-