The Book Club Play at 16th Street Theater affectionately skewers the title institution while giving serious consideration to the value of literature and witty lines to the characters discussing it. Playwright Karen Zacarias captures deftly the territoriality often exhibited by club members when confronted with outsiders, as well as the ongoing tension about what (and whether!) to read. An audience talk-back after the play had everyone deeply engaged in the play’s central question—“What is literature?”—even if most people wound up agreeing with the character who argued that being educated requires being open to high culture and pop culture alike.
Though Zacarias’s book group violates stereotypes by being co-ed, director Kevin Christopher Fox’s perfect pitch for this essentially female institution nonetheless came as something of a surprise. Artistic Director Ann Filmer plays the group’s founder (or so the character claims) with just the right blend of overbearing-ness and insecurity, and she’s ably supported by the others, especially Jesse Dornan as the club-crasher who turns the group on its ear and its members on each other through nothing more than his desire to belong.
If you’ve ever been in a book group (particularly one that went sour) you should see this, and if you haven’t you’ll see this and congratulate yourself on your foresight. It’s selling well enough that they announced an extension on opening night, so don’t delay—it’s not like you have to read the book first!