Kathryn Grody and Mark Blum in ‘The Model Apartment,’ by Donald Margulies
The TV and fridge don’t work. The space is cramped. But Max and Lola have bigger things to worry about than appliances and square footage. Much bigger.
So it goes in Donald Margulies’ provocative 1988 play, “The Model Apartment,” at Primary Stages.
Max (Mark Blum) and Lola (Kathryn Grody) have weathered Holocaust horrors. She endured Bergen-Belsen. He hid in the woods until the war was over. They survived, found each other in New York and married.
But they can’t shake the past and how it’s shaped their present, embodied by their adult daughter, Deborah (Diane Davis). She is obese, disturbed and possibly violent. And she’s about to barge in on them — as she always does.
With the nose of a bloodhound, Debby has tracked down her folks, who left her in Brooklyn and fled to a new Florida apartment.
But they can’t escape her — and she can’t erase the stories of Nazi terror they fed her. Lola loves to talk about her close relationship with Anne Frank. Debby has internalized the tales in very disturbing ways.
“They’re all inside me,” Debby wails. “All of them. Anne Frank. The 6 million … When my stomach talks, it’s them talking.”
Margulies is known for realistic dramas like “Time Stands Still” and “Dinner With Friends,” for which he won the Pulitzer Prize. This rarely seen play, which is streaked with dark humor, goes to more abstract places.
It also makes you squirm. Especially when Debby’s so-called boyfriend Neil (Hubert Point-Du Jour), who’s homeless and dim, arrives for some noisy sex in the bathroom.
Under the assured direction of Evan Cabnet, Grody and Blum hit all the right notes of a long-married, long-suffering couple. Davis delivers a performance that is scary and bound to rattle your nerves.
That’s as it should be. The unsettling “The Model Apartment” isn’t designed for comfort and serenity.