'Mankind' at Playwrights Horizons: Tedious, offensive satire set in an all-dude future

MANKIND
"Mankind" at Playwrights Horizons in New York.

Robert O’Hara takes up the feminist cudgel and beats to death the title of his new play, that misogynistic synonym for humanity, “mankind.” What begins as a potentially clever idea — women have gone extinct in this cowardly new world 100 years into the future — soon turns tedious.

Isn’t the whole point of pointed satire its point? Mankind’s scattershot, kitchen-sink approach undermines whatever social indictment O’Hara had in mind, since gender parity is not the only issue here; he piles on abortion rights, climate change, air pollution, fascistic cults, religious rituals, sleazy talk-shows, failed father/son relationships, and (drumroll, please) mankind’s willingness to do absolutely anything for billions of dollars. Morally vacant, humorless, and stretched to fill two hours by long quasi-liturgical rituals that require audience participation, Mankind merely wink-winks at important issues.

The plot: Two shallow men who barely know each other discover that their sex-only relationship is suddenly complicated when Jason (Bobby Moreno) tells his partner Mark (Anson Mount) that he, Jason, is pregnant. When they decide, without a moment’s hesitation, to “get rid of it,” they are arrested for attempted murder since abortion is still criminalized in this future world.

Eventually the baby is born, and lo!, it is a girl. “Crybaby” dies on camera during a talk-show, and an enormous golden effigy of her, splashed with blood, spawns a religion with all its attendant violence and costuming. The two fathers (Andre de Shields and Stephen Schnetzer) of these young fathers are no more developed as characters than their sons and seem to be merely script decoration. Further caricatured characters are provided by David Ryan Smith and Ariel Shafir.

If you are a woman, you will find nothing here that rings true as these men pretend to experience pregnancy and childbirth; if you are a Christian or a Buddhist, you are likely to be offended (if you even take the play that seriously) by the vulgarity of the assault on organized religion, and if you are a straight man you are likely to be baffled at how this all-male world is exclusively an all-gay world where everyone prances around despite calling each other “Dude” (apparently slang has not changed in 100 years), and if you are a gay man I imagine you will be disgusted by the clichés of this portrayal of mindless and promiscuous gay life.

O’Hara, who has directed his own play, has the nerve to add a plea for a charitable donation to Planned Parenthood at the curtain call, conscripting a noble organization into this ignoble theatrical mashup.


Mankind. Through Jan. 28 at Playwrights Horizons, 416 W. 42nd Street, New York.