Congratulations to all the people involved in the making of If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet. Jake is highly praised in all the reviews I’ve read so far, this is why, if you could see me, you’d see a very happy face. Bravo!
While all the performances are good, it’s Annie Funke’s Anna who breaks your heart and Gyllenhaal’s Terry who is Payne’s most compelling and complex character. Gyllenhaal is eminently watchable as he navigates between his character’s potty-mouthed surface and his deeper feelings of anger, empathy and yearning.
There’s nothing terribly new about the problems explored, but so what, if they’re as entertainingly presented and well acted as If There Is I Haven’t Found it is. The question Payne’s title seems to ask is “how to improve the way we live?” His answer, which really isn’t an answer, is that it may just be best to start looking at meltdown dangers right in your own home.
The raw pain of a teenage girl is not an easy thing to witness, and scribe Nick Payne makes no attempt to sugarcoat the anguish in his blistering domestic drama, “If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet.” But a compassionate production from ardent director Michael Longhurst — one with committed perfs from selfless thesps Jake Gyllenhaal, Brian F. O’Byrne, and Michelle Gomez and a brave turn from young Annie Funke — can provide the dubious comfort of a bloodletting.
No wonder Anna loves her bad-boy uncle, as do we all. They speak the same language because they feel the same pain. In Gyllenhaal’s wonderfully manic, crazy-like-a-fox perf, it’s fairly obvious that Terry, no less than Anna, is one of those endangered species being pushed off the edge of the planet. Unless, of course, they manage to spit out the indigestible garbage that people like George keep trying to shove down their throats.
Without leaking too many details, wonderfully unexpected things happen with water and props in director Michael Longhurst’s exciting, inventive staging. A delicate waterfall and a pool provide dramatic metaphors for the overwhelming unhappiness building within the central character, an overweight and bullied teenage girl named Anna whose family seems remarkably unable to figure out how to help her.
Anna’s uncle Terry is played with zeal by Jake Gyllenhaal, extremely effective in his New York stage debut. George’s charming but aimless younger brother bursts in on the family after a few years away. Gyllenhaal crackles with self-loathing and anger, as Terry hopes to mend a romance he destroyed.
Nick Payne’s family drama has garnered a lot of attention because it marks Jake Gyllenhaal’s New York theater debut. Spoiler alert: He and his English accent are perfectly fine.
Into this unhappy household comes George’s younger brother, the slackerish Terry (Gyllenhaal), who warms to his unhappy niece. Broody in a young James Dean kind of way — he rakes his hand through his hair a lot — Gyllenhaal has an appealing, fumbling romanticism.
But as good as the actors are, they can’t conceal the fact that they’re playing clichés thrown into overly familiar situations. You can over-direct this Family Dysfunction 101 class all you want, but it just looks like someone wearing clothes three sizes too big.
Amiable, scruffy, erratic, well-intentioned, full of promise and self-sabotaging — such is the nature of Terry, the stoner character with which the movie star Jake Gyllenhaalhas chosen to make his very creditable New York stage debut. Such is also the nature, for better or worse, of the play in which he appears. […]
It’s the relationship between Terry and Anna, though, that gives the play its strongest emotional heat. […]
Onstage, Mr. Gyllenhaal — who has starred in genre-spanning films ranging from “Brokeback Mountain” to “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” — is winningly at ease as he plays an uncomfortable character. His crablike sideways walk, his coherent mumbling (in a convincingly sustained British accent) and his shy yet confrontational gaze all speak persuasively of Terry’s uneasiness in navigating the new terrain of delayed-onset adulthood.
Gyllenhaal, currently also on-screen as an L.A. cop in “End of Watch,” makes an admirable, low-key debut here as part of a four-character ensemble in which the people and story intentionally compete with the set.
In contrast, Gyllenhaal’s socially inappropriate Terry — with his fuzzy beard, sweet smile and filthy T-shirt — shows both a serious lack of impulse control and deep empathy. The actor makes us want things to be softer for the guy and Payne, to his credit, refuses to indulge us. As for the carbon footprint of the theater’s motorized water tank, well, George would not approve.
The “it” in the title, I think, is balance — the inability of these characters to find equilibrium between caring about the future of the world and caring about their loved ones. Alas, Payne, one ofBritain‘s rising young playwrights, never manages to find that balance, either.
BOTTOM LINE Admirable Gyllenhaal, interesting but unbalanced play.
What if you’re drowning in misery and nobody seems to care? The despair of being bullied is one theme of Nick Payne’s clever, edgy domestic drama, “If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet,” about a British family that knows it’s falling apart but can’t seem to take action to stop it.
Gyllenhaal is making his New York stage debut here, and it’s a beaut. Perfectly nailing a London drawl and exuding an air of rumpled, unwashed profanity leavened by flashes of wit and boyish ardor, he renders Terry an utterly vivid, laddish mensch. The cast surrounding Gyllenhaal is equally sensational, even though there’s no need to bolster the film star. Gomez is all weary, pinched compromise, and as the plus-size outcast, Funke earns our sympathy without resorting to cuteness or pathos. O’Byrne, too long absent from New York, gives a magnificently balanced performance. Gentle yet obtuse, deeply moral but impotent, his stammering George is a man who stands to gain the world, but could lose his family. The ending of this stirring, humane, insightful work suggests that perhaps we shouldn’t have to choose.—David Cote
“If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet” is a small ensemble play getting a big profile boost from Jake Gyllenhaal.
Happily, the “Brokeback Mountain” Oscar nominee shows off sturdy stage chops in his New York theater debut.
He’s touching, funny and completely convincing as Uncle Terry, a scruffy man-boy chronically adrift, profane, bad with boundaries, but with a good heart. In short, Terry is far from perfect but likable.
The same goes for this 90-minute one-act by British playwright Nick Payne, an up-and-comer who puts his own spin on the popular topic of family dysfunction and durability.
To be fair, the play seems more interesting on the page than onstage, and it arrives with an estimable London cachet, having premiered in a different production at the Bush Theatre in 2009 to strong critical response. But as presented here, its picture of a dysfunctional family blind to one another’s problems and unable to communicate feels like the stale fodder of countless young dramatists’ work, not to mention the familiar ground of too many funny-sad indie movies.
The play flickers to life when Gyllenhaal comes on as George’s drifter brother, Terry. Blunt and unfiltered, the affable roughneck breaks through Anna’s defense barrier by sheer clumsy persistence, his gutter-mouthed pep talks initially making her cringe but soon giving her a cautious sense of self-worth.
Terry is the kind of unapologetic screwup role that actors love, allowing for a lot of shuffling physicality as well as the accent, attitude and profanity-laced dialogue of an eternal lad. Gyllenhaal spends most of his stage time shifting back and forth on his feet, twitching nervously or raking his hair, his arms in near constant motion. The performance is still a little too studied, suggesting that the actor needs to relax into it. But there’s a sense of damaged vulnerability there that gives him a natural allegiance with Anna. However, when Terry exits, the play fizzles.
Just about everything in British playwright Nick Payne’s If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet is topical: There’s a bullied plus-size 15-year-old named Anna (Annie Funke). Her clueless dad, George (Mildred Pierce‘s Brían F. O’Byrne), is a global-warming obsessive writing a book about the carbon footprint of everyday living. Her teacher mother, Fiona (Michelle Gomez), is distracted by her own mom’s descent into Alzheimer’s. And then there’s Anna’s ne’er-do-well uncle, whose chief claim to our attention may be the fact that he’s played by Jake Gyllenhaal (in his New York stage debut). It’s a suitably recessive role for the young movie star, who nails the slackerly aloofness (and British accent), if not the undercurrents of anger that would lead him to trash a romantic rival’s car.
Jake talks about the play
Jake and Michael on Anderson Live (more to come)
And Jake on Kelly and Michael