The model apartment of the title is a one-room studio condo where Lola (Marilyn Fox) and Max (Michael Mantell) are bedding down for a couple of days while a real estate company readies the one-bedroom that they’ve purchased in a housing development in Florida. The apartment looks great when they first enter, but they soon discover that its attractiveness is a sham; the appliances don't work and the various knickknacks, candlesticks and ashtrays, are nailed down. The circumstance is upsetting to both of them, especially Lola, but they make the best of it, dancing tenderly in each other’s arms before getting ready to bed down for the night.
But that doesn’t happen. Their dance, an act of gentle lovemaking, is interrupted by the unexpected arrival of their daughter Debby (Annika Marks), an obese, garrulous young woman who plops herself down in the middle of the space, oblivious to the dismay of her parents who, we soon learn, have departed their Brooklyn home in large part to get away from her. It’s evident from the first moment that Debby is not only a physical misfit, she’s also a disturbed person who's disconnected from reality — although what her problem is, precisely, is difficult to ascertain.
As Lola and Max engage in an effort to make Debby go away (“There’s no food,” Lola keeps saying, as if that will frighten her daughter off), details begin to emerge about their lives, beginning with the significant fact that the couple are Holocaust survivors — Lola having been incarcerated in Bergen-Belsen, while Max spent war years hiding out in the woods. And Debby’s brought her own surprise with her — a boyfriend named Neil (Giovanni Adams), who’s followed her to Florida and who, like Debby herself, evokes an air of permanent displacement.
As the four engage, subtle changes take place. Initially as disturbed as Max is by Debby’s arrival, Lola, suffering pangs of guilt, finds she cannot close the door completely on her child, despite Debby’s tidal wave of need. Max, haunted by the specter of his dead daughter Deborah (Marks sans fat suit), who died in the camps, cannot bring himself to acknowledge the large, loudmouthed person before him as his own.
All this — and more which I haven’t revealed — plays out with great delicacy under Marya Mazor’s direction. One of the highlights of the Donald Margulies-penned show is a monologue in which Lola recounts her relationship in Bergen-Belsen with a special friend. For a few minutes Fox, whose performance, along with her character, grows steadily richer and more complex as the play escalates, holds the audience in the palm of her hand.
The most challenging role, however, and the one which drives the story, belongs to Marks. Its not easy portraying outrageousness without taking it over the top. But Marks never does, and from first to last makes clear to us the intelligence and hurting humanity inside this massive wonky woman.
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