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Review: Sleepwalking Through the ’70s in ‘Downtown Race Riot’

Yet Mr. Rosenfeld has infused this antique sensibility with virtually no sense of present-tense urgency. As the play counts right down to the violent match of its identify, a rampage in Washington Square Park in 1976, the motion appears to be going on at a hazy take away, as though it had been running in keeping with sense reminiscence, or conditioned reflex.


From left, foreground, David Levi (on the ground), Moise Morancy (in scarf) and Cristian DeMeo in “Downtown Race Riot.”

Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

You may argue that this interpretation is, in many ways, appropriate. It could be stated to replicate the mind-set of Mary Shannon (Ms. Sevigny, in costumes by way of Clint Ramos that remind us of ways unflattering ’70s models had been, even to the tall and wonderful). Mary is the distracted, doped-up mom who presides over a two-bedroom condominium in Greenwich Village (convincingly evoked by way of the fashion designer Derek McLane).

Mary, who survives in large part on incapacity bills, makes the mandatory maternal noises — of love, censure, solicitude — to her kids, 21-year-old Joyce (Sadie Scott) and 18-year-old Jimmy (David Levi), whom everybody calls Pnut (pronounced Peanut). But you'll be able to inform her thoughts is typically on different topics, like when she’ll be capable of shoot up once more.

Ms. Sevigny exudes an air of defensive detachment, which turns out to tally with what other folks say about Mary. But it’s now not at all times simple to inform how a lot her affectless mien is an performing selection and what sort of it comes from being inflamed by way of the somnolent rhythms of a leaden script.

In any case, the plot’s true middle is Pnut, a inclined, socially challenged child given to outbursts of rage. Mr. Levi does candy higher than difficult, but it surely’s a likable and credible efficiency. Pnut’s easiest buddy is Marcel Baptiste (Moise Morancy), a transplanted black Haitian who has taught himself to mix in with the street-smart white youngsters he hangs with.

Marcel (referred to as Massive) needs Pnut to enroll in their buddies, who're making plans to rebellion that afternoon, to purge Washington Square of the Hispanic and black individuals who acquire there. But Massive — who simply needs to be one in all the gang — is much less absolutely approved than he thinks he's by way of the community gang, which incorporates the Italian-American Tommy-Sick (Cristian DeMeo) and the graffiti king Jay 114 (Daniel Sovich, amusingly channeling early John Travolta).

There are unpersuasive subplots involving a one-afternoon stand between Massive and Joyce (who serves the standard-issue function of the idealist oddball made up our minds to flee the previous community), Pnut’s psychosomatic bronchial asthma and Mom’s scheme to sue the town by way of presenting her slow-thinking son as a sufferer of lead paint poisoning.

In pursuit of that function, she enlists a seedy, lustful legal professional (Josh Pais), who I'm satisfied to file arrives bearing cocaine, beginning a short lived however welcome alternate of tempo. Ms. Sevigny and Mr. Pais appear to have a great time replicating the results of that drug. And if their hyped-up jitters are slightly exaggerated, they no less than supply a kick of adrenaline in a bizarrely narcoticized display.

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