Don’t You F***ing Say a Word

In today’s highly charged environment, when every swear word is dissected under the politically correct microscope, the title of this play is a thin veil of friendship and rivalry.  Spoiler alert: the audience hears the real McCoy, several times. Playing at 59E59 Theaters, the production runs through December 4.

Kudos to the set designer for creating a tennis court in such a small, intimate space. Clever lighting and removable tape help transform the blue-hued space from court, to living room, to Yoga studio in rapid order, as the audience views tennis as a microcosm for comparing love and relationships.

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Bhavesh Patel, Jeanine Serralles, Jennifer Lim, and Michael Braun

The play, written by Andy Bragen, parodies the male-hormone-driven intensity of competitive tennis between two underemployed guys, Russ (Michael Braun) and Brian (Bhavesh Patel), while managing to drive home the point that boys will be boys, after all. Among the aggressive tennis strokes, questionable line calls, and countless mini tantrums following a missed shot or fault, the guys engage in potty talk about the girls they see, including the color of one’s underwear (red), and a Latina’s prowess in bed (hot). It’s a good thing neither one is running for political office: It’s a safe bet that kind of locker room banter would be broadcast to the electorate in prime time.

Having met through their girlfriends, Kate (Jennifer Lim), and Leslie (Jeanine Serralles), who chanced upon one another and recalled meeting in college years before when they sized one another up and set the stage for their own clash years hence, the boys arrange a weekly tennis match.

Brian, obsessed with the game and equipped with every necessary accoutrement, shows up at game one to meet Russ, who has prepared by pasta loading, practicing his backhand, and watching a tennis video. The tension builds with each shot, punctuated by omnipresent swearing, as the girls, on the sidelines, do yeoman’s work scrutinizing the guys’ psyche.  n typical shrink-speak, Russ had an overbearing mother, and his dad was never home. Brian learned to get love by drawing attention to himself.

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Bhavesh Patel, Jeanine Serralles, Jennifer Lim, and Michel Braun

Turns out, Kate and Leslie are also competitive, but it manifests itself differently, as they watch the guys play and recount how their personality traits play out off the court. The girls, one the peacekeeper, the other more assertive, witness the friendship devolve in the play’s denouement, when all four assemble for post-match cocktails and dinner. At first, the conversation revolves around life in New York, punctuated with pointers every Manhattanite will recognize, like getting on the wrong subway and going to cocktail parties where “people look past you, on the hunt for something better.” But then tempers rise, Leslie and Brian become embroiled in accusations of infidelity, and the evening, reaching a crescendo, quickly falls apart. The twosome tennis players go their separate ways.

Eighteen months later, the guys run into one another, but so much has changed. Russ is a father now, and Brian is newly single. Kate and Leslie have changed, too. They meet for Yoga, and through a couple of poses of Down Dog and Warrior One, they silently communicate that in their own way, girls will be girls, too.

It’s a fun 85 minutes, full of laughs, behavior that every couple will recognize, and a few things to think about on the way home.

Photos by Hunter Canning
Top photo: L-R: Bhavesh Patel, Jeanine Serralles, Jennifer Lim, and Michael Braun.

Don’t You F***ing Say a Word
59E59 Theaters
59 East 59th Street
Through December 4, 2016

About Merry Sheils (19 Articles)
Merry Sheils won the New York Press Club’s Journalism Award for best business writing in 2011 and 2012. As a portfolio manager for private clients, she writes a financial column for WomenAroundTown.com as well as features and profiles. She frequently writes economic and capital markets commentary, including white papers, thought leadership pieces and investment reports, for companies and investment managers. Prior to becoming a writer, Merry worked as a senior portfolio manager and investment analyst at BNYMellon and Wilmington Trust Company (now M&T Bank). A SUNY graduate with a degree in finance, she is the author of “Debt-Based Securities” and has been published in The Financial Times, Forbes and Chief Executive Magazine, and has appeared as a guest on CNBC. She founded First New York Equity, Incorporated, an investment advisory firm, and sold it to Price Waterhouse (now PricewaterhouseCoopers). She divides her time between New York City and her 18th century house in Columbia County, NY, where she is active in the North Chatham Free Library, the Old Chatham Hunt Club and the Columbia County Historical Society.