The Fourth Wall

By Andrew Andrews

Floyd (Stephen Drabicki) persuades Peggy (Pamela Sabaugh) to break through The Fourth Wall in Theater Breaking Through Barriers production of A.R. Gurney’s play at A.R.T./New York Theatres. Original photo by Carol Rosegg.

“It’s time to shake things up!”
–Peggy, The Fourth Wall

What happens when a middle-age WASP repositions everything in her living room to face a blank wall? And why on earth would someone of normally-exquisite taste do such a thing? In A. R. Gurney’s “wall-breaking” play, The Fourth Wall, Peggy—the aforementioned middle-age WASP, played by Ann Marie Morelli—does exactly that, and her reasons are similar to ours here at Opplaud™: you see, Peggy wants to break through the wall and pull America out of their homes, away from their televisions; to connect with people as diverse as the country we live in, not sit on our sofas watching reruns of sitcoms.

Peggy’s husband, Roger (Nicholas Viselli), thinks she’s gone insane and recruits the help of their childhood friend Julia from New York City (Pamela Sabaugh) to return to their Buffalo suburb and find a solution to this madness. But Julia from New York City gets sucked into the idea that they’re performing a plotless play for the nonexistent crowd on the other side of the wall (where Roger insists is nothing but the dining room), and develops a subplot of her own to make the situation more interesting. So Roger calls Floyd (Stephen Drabicki), an associate professor of theater at a nearby college, to help out, but Floyd considers Peggy a genius, labeling her a modern-day Joan of Arc.

With a player piano providing the accompaniment for Cole Porter songs interjected throughout the story, Theater Breaking Through Barriers’ production of The Fourth Wall delivers everything you’d expect from a musical comedy: laughter, melodrama, show tunes, and a simple but gorgeous set by Bert Scott that’s surrounded by the audience on three sides (ironically extending the fourth wall into the second and third, which makes for interesting use by the cast). But this show is much more than that: it’s a very serious social commentary on the state of live theatre in America and what it needs to do not only to stay alive, but to tear down walls in this nation instead of building new ones. So check it out, then come back here and tell us if you’re not as inspired to save the world as we are to continue our mission. Whether you believe Peggy has the right idea or agree with Floyd that “plays don’t change the world… and the ones that try, don’t last,” your reviews can help others decide whether they should attend, and your ratings help us help you find future events you’re sure to love!


Andrew Andrews attended The Fourth Wall at A.R.T./New York Theatres in Manhattan on Friday, June 1, 2018 @ 8:00pm to write this review.