Nick Jones’ original play “Verité” tells the story of Jo Darum, an aspiring author struggling to publish her novel. The play opens on Jo (Anna Camp, “Pitch Perfect”) reading to her son Lincoln (Oliver Hollman), while her husband Josh (Danny Wolohan) drinks beer at the kitchen table. Their lives appear to be typical of any suburban family in an ordinary home. Jo’s story, however, becomes anything but ordinary.
Jo’s life changes when she is offered a memoir deal by Sven and Andreas, a publishing duo played by Robert Stella and Matt McGrath, respectively. In order to keep the deal, however, Jo must make her life interesting enough to write about. Luckily, adventure arises on its own through a series of eerie events.
Jo begins to sacrifice her family for her book when she meets Winston, an old high school classmate, played by Ebon Moss-Bachrach. In search of material exciting enough to publish, Jo leaves behind her husband and her son. As the play draws to a close, the audience wonders whether Jo has gone too far or if she will be able to hold on to her loved ones.
Stella and McGrath bring ample quirkiness to “Verité,” popping in and out of scenes with striped socks and Scandinavian-accented cheer, keeping the audience absorbed in the show. Moss-Bachrach also captivates the audience with a sense of mystery, appearing to win Jo over. Jeanine Serralles plays Liz Darum, Josh’s sister. Though her character’s importance is unexplained, her comical presence onstage adds far more than expected.
The impressive set, created by Andrew Boyce, is central to the show’s success. The audience follows the characters from the Darum family apartment — complete with an old stereo, working voicemail machine and stocked refrigerator -— to the office of Sven and Andreas, where blinds and office chairs transform the stage into a realistic office space. When Sven opens the fridge, its contents have been changed from those in the typical household to nothing but water bottles. Boyce realizes every small detail and no ambiguities are left to the imagination.
Camp’s portrayal of Jo has moments of excellence but falters with some weak points. She illustrates the naive excitement of the struggling writer presented with an opportunity to succeed. However, her need to constantly know what comes next in her own story slows down the plot towards the end of the show, leaving the audience somewhat impatient. When surrounded by wacky, unique characters, Jo seems a bit mundane in comparison.
Jones’ writing brings a novel storyline to the stage of the Lincoln Center Theater. A cast of off-kilter characters draws the audience through an unexpected set of plotlines on a beautifully crafted set.
“Verité” is playing at the Claire Tow Theater at Lincoln Center through March 15.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Feb. 24 print edition. Email Willa Tellekson-Flash at [email protected]