Greta Gerwig is a big girl: she's tall, and gangly in an appealing way, and like the "Girls" on the HBO series, she's emblematic of the new woman finding her way through life's challenges. That was her appeal in Frances Ha, directed by Noah Baumbach, and that's what she embodies as Becky in a new play, The Village Bike, by the British playwright Penelope Skinner now making its American premiere in the MCC production at the Lucille Lortel Theater. Gerwig is even big in a video projected over the stage, riding a used bicycle, a pregnant woman with a big libido.
Said bicycle allows her freedom, and in the broken chain, there's a snag. Living in rural England with her husband, in a house with faulty pipes, Becky's got three significant men, Oliver (Scott Shepherd), the bicycle salesman, Mike (Max Baker), the plumber, and her husband John (Jason Butler Harner). During the time covered, she has sex with two of them. Guess who? She shows a healthy taste for porn, and engages in fantasies that render her adventurous, reckless, and trapped when she crosses the line into longing, not for love, but for more sex.
By contrast, Cara Seymour as Jenny, a nosy neighbor stuck at home with kids, and Lucy Owen as Alice, Oliver's wife, offer different shades of women's experience steeped in reality. Owen is especially riveting in her brief scene with Gerwig, a cool slap in the face.
On opening night, at the 49 Grove afterparty, director Sam Gold, whose next project is the revival of The Real Thing on Broadway said he took on this project because he thought Penny Skinner was exploring prisons that women find themselves in, in marriage, and in attitudes about their sexuality: "I like to take risks, to see if I will fail," he explained, "and the actors really cared about this play." Eric Bogosian, Sam Rockwell, Diane Lane, Zosia Mamet, Evan Jonigkeit, and many others concurred with Noah Baumbach, "Greta's great."
Skinner's third play, The Village Bike, has a kinky edge, a contrast to the playwright's girlish look. To the obvious question, she responded, "Yes, I've been pregnant, but I am not a mother."
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.