Tuesdays are not normally known for being the most exciting day of the week… but for award-winning, 40-something journalist Windy, it has turned out to be quite an afternoon. Windy is eight months’ pregnant and ordered for strict “Bed Rest” by her doctor– hence the title in Whitney Matheson’s smart, realistic, and funny new play. There’s not much “rest” in this “bed rest”, however– especially for Windy. Windy works for a Rolling Stone-like magazine, which seemingly tries to navigate between intellectual discourse and trendy pop culture gloss (A telling moment is when one of the characters, “Barbara from the office”, repeatedly insists that Windy specifically ask one of her famous interview subjects about two trending topics: “AI and apps”.) Windy is still being given work-at-home projects with challenging deadlines. Despite her journalistic accolades, we learn that our heroine may be experiencing some degree of cognitive dissonance over her career trajectory. Her ambivalent feelings about her future are stimulated at the opening of Bed Rest, when Windy learns from the seemingly omnipresent “Barbara from the office” that many of her co-workers (suspiciously, the ones over 40…) have been laid off thanks to “restructuring”. Windy’s feelings are pushed even further to the front seat when she is visited by Ivy, an ambitious, 20-something intern who is eager to get to know her more experienced peer. Ivy, who’s also a social media entrepreneur in her own right, won’t be the only visitor to Windy’s Brooklyn apartment. Bed Rest, after all, is also known as The Intern, the Rock Star, & The Mattress Inspector. The second guest, therefore, is famously hard-partying rock star Jamie Drake, who is paying Windy a visit to give her an exclusive interview for the magazine. (Rock stars don’t normally make house calls, but this is one rock star who– in true “bad boy” fashion– does not seem to follow rules of any kind.) The third person to drop by Apartment 3A is Maya, a world-weary, no-nonsense mattress inspector. (Yes, kids, there really is such a career.) Throughout this impromptu potluck party of four, Ivy earns a lot of unorthodox career advice as well as a few extra unexpected perks. Windy not only gets her exclusive interview with Mr. Drake but also the promise of a new mattress from Maya. Along the way, the audience learns a lot more about all four of these colorful characters– while laughing the whole time. The big revelation of Bed Rest, which is near the conclusion of the play, is unflinchingly realistic. While some audience members may have predicted it via some earlier foreshadowing, this reviewer was completely caught off guard.
The cast of five was excellent. Although this afternoon was officially named “a staged reading”, the talent of the performers elevated this reading to 90 minutes of superior entertainment. The actors may have had scripts in front of them, but all the promising signs of a future “official” production– comedic timing, great physical reactions, and fine wordless acting (including priceless facial expressions) — were evident. As Windy, Sara Benincasa was just perfect. She made us laugh with her optimism running parallel alongside her sardonic attitude. We sympathize with Windy, but also have a feeling that thanks to her plucky nature, she’ll be just fine. As Ivy, the neophyte journalist with her self-admittedly cliched desire to “make the world a better place” (Haven’t we ALL been there?), Zuri Washington was equally excellent. Her character is infinitely more complex and nuanced than the shallow stereotype of a millennial which Ivy could have been at the hands of a less talented playwright. Put another way: Analysts of modern culture have spent MANY hours discussing the relationships between different generations– and, some would say, “stirring the pot” in the process. By making both Windy and Ivy fully formed characters, the audience gets to see a more in-depth understanding of both, for lack of a better word, “sides”– while still making us laugh at Windy’s dismay that that Ivy doesn’t know who Griffin Dunne is.
Chistopher Lee was funny without drifting into camp as “the internationally famous” rock star Jamie Drake… and, despite being an artist who unapologetically named his album “Platypussy”, his character becomes increasingly more engaging as the play progresses. As Maya, the mattress inspector, Michele Carlo was indeed a crowd pleaser with her character’s “no BS” personality and deadpan delivery of dialogue; as the play progresses, Matheson (as she does with the other characters) allows her to really become a full-fledged person, not a one-joke presence. Providing the voices of (all together now…) “Barbara from the office” and “Shauna”, Christine Verleny got to give the audience some of the play’s most unexpectedly funniest moments. Rounding out the cast was hard-working Annie Choi, who provided the stage direction.
Let’s hope that we see a full production of Whitney Matheson’s humorous and smart (not to mention inspiring and provocative?) play in the future. Who says that being confined to “Bed Rest” can’t be a great time? (Not to mention inspiring and provocative…)
Bed Rest was written by Whitney Matheson, produced by Dean Haspiel and Whitney Matheson. This reading took place on Saturday, February 4th, 2023 at The Tank, 312 W. 36th Street, NYC. Visit http://www.TheTankNYC.org for more about their events int he future. You can see more Whitney Matheson at her Substack or on Instagram. Visit Dean Haspiel at his Substack or on Instagram.