There’s certainly something to be said for the fresh dialogue, zippy zingers and well-drawn characters in Manhattan Theater Club’s “The Madrid” at City Center. They make for striking interchanges and more than a few good laughs. But ultimately Liz Flahive’s latest doesn’t add up to much. A black hole at its center drains its energy and marginalizes its impact.
Martha (Edie Falco) is a kindergarten teacher who one day tells her class she’ll be “right back.” She disappears. Her husband John (John Ellison Conlee) and daughter Sarah (Phoebe Strole, reminiscent of Ellen Page at her strongest) are confused and cope as best they can. Her mother (a droll Frances Sternhagen) drives her car into a tree. Neighbors Becca (Heidi Schreck) and Danny (Christopher Evan Welch) try to help, but fail. Then Martha shows up at the Starbucks where Sarah works, and Sarah soon starts seeing her on the sly at her sparsely furnished apartment in a building called The Madrid.
Unfortunately, we never get even a whiff of what motivated Martha to fly the coop or, for that matter, who she is. Not that we need to see a blueprint – a little mystery is fine. But we should have some idea of what makes her tick. Her underwritten character seems like an afterthought, which is especially bizarre since the other characters are so well-developed. We keep waiting for a revelation, but it never comes — and its absence leaves the entire production hanging, its potential unrealized.