NEW YORK (AP) — Mining the comedy in an awkward morning-after situation between a hung-over young man and woman, who apparently fell into bed together after a wild wedding reception, would seem like a natural for acerbic playwright Neil LaBute.
Yet his new comedy, "The Way We Get By," has an unexpected sweetness, along with a twist that heightens the suspense as to whether the couple in question will embark on a romance or not.
Leigh Silverman ("Violet" and "Chinglish" on Broadway) deftly directs Thomas Sadoski and Amanda Seyfried in the engrossing production that opened Tuesday night at Second Stage Theatre.
Sadoski and Seyfried each give their own charm to characters who are possibly more star-crossed than Romeo and Juliet. Sadoski, who most recently appeared on Broadway in "Other Desert Cities," previously starred in LaBute's disturbing "Reasons to Be Pretty" both on and off-Broadway. His character, Doug, wears a nerdy intensity while trying to appear cool, a complex effect that Sadoski has mastered.
Seyfried, best known for film work ("Mama Mia!" and "Les Miserables"), is making her off-Broadway debut as one of LaBute's more accessible female characters. She exudes big-eyed, gamine appeal as Beth, who is direct and challenging with Doug about their relationship.
Silverman steers the pair through some tricky discussions, as Doug and Beth display moments of odd familiarity with one another while navigating what seems to be a typical morning-after minefield of over-explaining and over-thinking, burnished with extra caution. Both provide disarming moments of vulnerability as they feel one another out about their possible future together.
The reason for their cautious affinity is eventually revealed to be a surprising childhood connection, but even though Doug and Beth are struggling with major life choices, the genuine will-they-or-won't-they suspense is handled in a relatively lighthearted way.