Review: In ‘Islander,’ the Puck Stops Here

The 2017 season didn’t begin too badly. The New York Islanders, a National Hockey League workforce with a brand new coach and a newish berth at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, might need allowed just a few too many photographs on objective, however they nonetheless gained most of their video games. A few months later, in December, all of it started to go flawed. Then it went extra flawed. The protection fell aside. The workforce missed the playoffs. John Tavares, the Islanders’ captain and star participant, departed for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Fans revolted.

The director Katie Brook and the playwright Liza Birkenmeier, hockey followers each, have scraped a few of that dangerous ice into “Islander,” a verbatim piece at Here Arts Center. Presented by Tele-Violet and supported by New Georges, the play borrows commentary from the season and places it in the mouth of a bearded, sweatpants-clad, aggressively common dude referred to as Man (David Gould). (The sources aren’t listed, however Man’s language suggests reside broadcast commentary, postgame interviews and fan boards.)

Additional textual content is culled from the movie star tutorial and males’s rights stan Jordan Peterson. Imagine a snow cone that’s half obsession, half self-justification, half masculine fragility, sweetened with self-pity and sweat, and also you’re principally there.

Brook and Birkenmeier (“Dr. Ride’s American Beach House”) are concerned with questions of identification, identification and kind. They have structured “Islander” slightly like a sport. It begins with the nationwide anthem and pauses for a halftime dance break. A naked stage, carpeted in rubber tiles, stands in for the rink. (The set and lighting design are by Josh Smith.) But there’s only one participant — after which towards the finish, a second (Dick Toth) and a 3rd (Aksel Latham-Mitchell, a baby actor who additionally gives a drum solo). If you’re searching for the nail-biting narrative propulsion of a correct sport, look elsewhere. A buzzer beater, “Islander” shouldn’t be.

It does, although, probe some fascinating concepts, like the peculiar possession that followers really feel towards a workforce and its gamers — a degree of mimetic engagement that theater hardly ever achieves, Broadway musicals excepted. No man is an island, however plenty of males, recliner-bound and alone with their Wi-Fi, appear to contemplate themselves Islanders. And fan boards and postgame debriefs present the uncommon areas in American life the place males are actively inspired to speak about their emotions. In these homosocial arenas, they confess their self-doubt, their disappointment and their emotions of low self-worth.

Gould, air guitaring away self-doubt and disappointment in “Islanders.”Credit…Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

“I’m very arrogant,” Man says. “I’m very lost within myself. I’m as sick of me as you are.” (Less helpfully, these are additionally areas for some males to justify their mediocrity.) But the script — a latticework of unconnected observations — has a means of flattening out these concepts, compressing them like the air mattress that Latham-Mitchell’s John Tavares cheerfully deflates.

“Islander” isn’t lengthy, simply 75 minutes, about the identical as a hockey sport. But because it provides so little in the means of plot or character, it feels longer. The language of commentary isn’t significantly attention-grabbing, although there are blazes of figuration (“He makes them as uncomfortable as a beached whale”), just a few snappy neologisms (“Sneakery: Is that a word?”) and the occasional metaphor melee.

While Gould is a charmer — exact, inexhaustible, courageous sufficient to bounce together with his shirt off — there’s solely a lot an actor can do when stringing collectively disjointed fan discussion board posts and meditations that solely an especially concussed Marcus Aurelius would possibly write: “Good is the enemy of great. No more good; it’s time to be great.”

Maybe “Islander,” like many N.H.L. video games, is healthier skilled through a highlights reel.

Islander
Through Sept. four at HERE, Manhattan; 212-647-0202, Here.org. Running time: 1 hour 15 minutes.