Just about everything in British playwright Nick Payne’s If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet is topical: There’s a bullied plus-size 15-year-old named Anna (Annie Funke). Her clueless dad, George (Mildred Pierce‘s Brían F. O’Byrne), is a global-warming obsessive writing a book about the carbon footprint of everyday living. Her teacher mother, Fiona (Michelle Gomez), is distracted by her own mom’s descent into Alzheimer’s. And then there’s Anna’s ne’er-do-well uncle, whose chief claim to our attention may be the fact that he’s played by Jake Gyllenhaal (in his New York stage debut). It’s a suitably recessive role for the young movie star, who nails the slackerly aloofness (and British accent), if not the undercurrents of anger that would lead him to trash a romantic rival’s car.
Director Michael Longhurst works overtime to make Payne’s symbolism as literal as possible. There’s a vast pool of water at the front edge of the stage at the Roundabout’s Off Broadway Laura Pels Theatre into which the actors toss furniture and props as the play progresses, detritus meant to evoke the rising tides from melting polar ice caps. The climax offers a striking bit of stagecraft, but one that threatens to overwhelm the slender banks of Payne’s story and the modest trajectories of his characters, so blinkered by their private fixations that they often fail to see the big picture. B