Unusual Acts of Devotion
by Terrence McNally
Philadelphia Theatre Company, Oct. 22–Nov. 23, 2008
“YOU NEED someone to take care of you, Chick,” a neighbor advises his friend in Terrence McNally’s new play, Unusual Acts of Devotion. “Or—now hear me out—you need someone to take care of. I believe having someone to take care of makes you stronger.” Unusual Acts is McNally’s love song to New York City—both to the extraordinarily intense community that life there allows, and to the dangers from which people must protect one another.
The play’s action is simple: on a summer evening, five residents escape the stifling heat of their respective apartments on the tarred rooftop of their six-story apartment building on the Lower West Side of Manhattan where Leo (played by Michael Aronov) and Nadine (Ana Reeder) celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary with an impromptu supper. Chick (Richard Thomas), a failed actor who works as a Greyline Tour guide, has been alone since his lover Aaron, unable to bear the pain of an unspecified illness, committed suicide several years earlier. Josie (Faith Prince), recently fired as a school teacher for engaging in an affair with a teenage student, has just returned from a drug rehabilitation program. The elderly, cantankerous Mrs. Darnell (Viola Harris), widowed so long that no one in the building remembers her husband, is a thorn in everyone’s side and is included in the group only because of Nadine’s caring nature.