Review: “Past Perfect” at Manhattan Repertory Theatre

Anthony J. Piccione

  • New York Theatre Critic

It’s not uncommon to see theatre explore issues concerning the LGBTQ community. Some of the best plays I’ve reviewed over the past year or so are the ones that do a superb job at doing exactly that. However, what I haven’t seen as often are plays which specifically focus of LGBTQ parents. Yet Past Perfect – a new full-length play written by Rita Lewis – attempts to do exactly that. Earlier in the year, I had been invited the review the show during its return to Manhattan Rep’s stage, and after a minor delay in this production’s return, I had the chance to get a glimpse this past weekend.

The play tells the story a mother and her teenage daughter, who deal with the return of the former’s past lesbian lover into the picture, and it comes at a time when the young daughter herself is just starting to explore romantic and sexual relationships for the first time in her life. At its core, it is a melodrama that contains a mix of both humor and sentimentality. The script isn’t perfect. Some of the lines occasionally feel awkwardly written, and I couldn’t help but feel the ending scene was a tad bit rushed. Nonetheless, it is still a mostly potent piece with a fascinating family story.

Admittedly, this is a rare production where not only is the playwright’s vision realized, but arguably enhanced, by the people working on the production itself. Under Artistic Director Ken Wolf’s direction, the atmosphere of the show often feels reminiscent of the Golden Age of Hollywood in the 1930s and 1940s, when melodramatic romance stories were at their peak in the world of film. The play is kept at a quick and energetic pace that kept the audience focused and engaged from beginning to end, the set design is simple but perfectly captures the scenery of the play, and even the lighting and sound transitions feel like their part of the theatrical experience!

In terms of the acting, the trio of women bringing these characters to life all make the most of what they are given from the playwright. In the role of Susan, Gerry Glennon’s strong emotions shine vividly, as she portrays someone who is torn between the role of concerned mother and of someone longing for love. Her daughter Julie is portrayed by Erika Yesenia, who does a very fine job at portraying the archetype that a role such as this seems to demand. Finally, Jennifer Pierro (who also serves as Manhattan Rep’s CEO and CFO) is both warm and passionate in the role of Susan’s former lover, Beth.

Unlike some other critics, I’ve never been a believer that melodramatic is a dirty word, so when I say that Past Perfect is a fairly well-done work of melodrama, executed perfectly by the cast and director, I mean that in the best way possible. While it describes itself as a story dealing with LGBTQ issues, it is ultimately a modern story of love, family and relationships that I think many people out there can probably relate to, to some extent or another, regardless of their sexuality. Presumably, this won’t be the last time this show runs at Manhattan Rep, so I’d certainly recommend that theatergoers keep an eye out, and consider seeing it during a potential future run.

 “Past Perfect” ended its current run at Manhattan Repertory Theatre on April 22nd. For more information on upcoming shows at this venue, as well as future performances of this show, please visit