“Yen,” a British import, opened a couple of weeks ago and, based upon our experience, is doing quite well. It may be that people are attracted to the play by the presence of Lucas Hedges (Oscar Best Supporting Actor nominee for “Manchester by the Sea”) as Hench. If you go, we think you’ll find the rest of the cast quite good, too. A frenetic Justice Smith plays Hench’s brother Bobbie, Ari Graynor as their mother and, in a broadway debut, Stephanie LaVie Owen as Jennifer, a neighbor. The plot basically is that Bobbie and Hench are living alone in a squalid flat in a British housing project. They spend their time playing video games and watching porn. The play develops as Jennifer is attracted to the flat by the presence of Taliban, an unseen but heard German Shepherd. The boy’s mother, drunk or on drugs, makes occasional appearances. A love interest develops between Hench and Jennifer and the play moves on from there.
The reason to go is the performances. All four are quite wonderful, and Justice Smith’s performance is both amazing and exhausting, Owen is fine as Jennifer and Hedges seems to have made the transition to the stage quite seamlessly. At the same time the play is OK. It is 20 to 30 minutes too long and the developed story left one of the four of us cold and several people walked out at the break. We did not think it warranted a departure, but some tolerance for the fine acting.
“Yen” is playing at the Lucille Lortel Theater on 12th St and has a limited run.