Theater: ‘The Village Bike’ treads an uneven path

The Village Bike Great Gerwig
The dynamic between Becky (Gerwig) and Oliver (Shepherd) creates a welcome diversion from scenes of everyday life — and we’re sure Becky couldn’t agree more.
Credit: Matthew Murphy

Poor Becky (Greta Gerwig): Newly pregnant, she’s aching for sex. But her husband, John (Jason Butler Harner), isn’t having any — partly out of misplaced concern for the gestating fetus. What’s a woman to do? Look elsewhere, of course.

So goes the plot of Penelope Skinner’s uneven “The Village Bike” at the Lucille Lortel Theatre: It’s not exactly hackneyed, not exactly fresh. The play is appealing in spurts, but it can’t seem to maintain a constant level of interest. Scenes between Becky and John are flat. Their positions are diametrically opposed — he’s pro-baby, anti-sex and she the reverse — but there’s no energy in the ensuing conflict. Becky’s attempts to seduce John are ineffective; she tries too hard while anticipating defeat.

The inherent humor in Becky’s dilemma is acknowledged, but not fully developed. More physicality might help. One nice touch is Becky’s tendency to greet male visitors in a short peignoir and wrap.

Becky’s interaction with her eventual back-door man, Oliver (Scott Shepherd), who sells her the bike she uses to travel to their frequent rendezvous, is considerably livelier. Oliver is authoritative, with a touch of danger. Shepherd provides some much-needed fire. Gerwig’s Becky is stylistically reminiscent of her Frances in the independent film “Frances Ha.” While considerably more proactive than Frances, Becky shares her distinctively addled quality.

Tighter direction by Sam Gold and a brisker pace might have whipped “The Village Bike” into some sort of shape. As it is, it meanders too much on a path you get tired of following.

If you go

‘The Village Bike’
Through June 28
Lucille Lortel Theatre,
121 Christopher St.
$49-$99, 212-352-3101
www.mcctheater.org



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