Almost nothing is more tedious than a real estate closing—well, except maybe a play about a real estate closing. So in that vein, “Quiet Enjoyment,” a new off-Broadway play presented as a limited engagement, is completely on the mark. In almost every other way, not so much.
Written by Richard Curtis and directed by Marcus Gualberto, “Quiet Enjoyment” tells the tale of a so-called “junior manager” Meredith Cudlip (Samantha Mercado Tudda) who is working on a NYC co-op ownership transfer between a recently divorced husband and wife, the Chasens.
As part of their divorce agreement Peter Chasen (Mark A. Daly) will allow his ex, Juliana, (Jamie Lee Kearns) to buy his $5,000,000 Upper East Side condo for just $1. A generous deal for sure, considering exes fight over real estate transactions in NYC all the time. But this closing, which is set in a claustrophobic office near Chinatown, quickly becomes even more fantastical.
It turns out Peter must pay off the $2,000,000 mortgage to ensure Juliana can live there happily with no fear of the bank seizing the co-op or the board kicking her out (it’s not clear why Juliana can’t take over the mortgage, or pay for anything herself). The title is a legal reference to the right to enjoy your property in peace, which for the purpose of this play has been conflated to mean that Juliana is a very pampered housewife. In reality, she would be on the hook for monthly common charges and real estate taxes, which would likely be high at a pricey co-op, but that isn’t part of the equation in this play.
Peter, it seems, has been doing funky stuff with his money, which is parked in an off-shore Cayman Island account, and he is anxiously waiting for it to be wired to the mortgage bank’s account. Without it, the transfer cannot happen.
It is unclear exactly what “junior manager” means, but in a high-end real estate transaction a closing would involve not only buyer and seller and their attorneys and brokers, but also a title company representative, and the co-op managing agent. It's unclear why the befuddled Meredith is even there—anyone attending a closing would be an expert on their role.
At one point the seller’s attorney announces he has a UTI, (and needs the restroom key frequently). Meredith thinks the acronym is a missing piece of paperwork. “I don’t see one,” she says, while shuffling through the packets.
With gags like this, you can see this is show is headed nowhere fast. Commenting on the large amount of paper that real estate transactions require, she quips, “Closings have significantly sustained the U.S. Postal service.” At least that much is true.
Other mishaps that delay the closing include the seller forgetting his identification and his assistant gaining access to his apartment by offering oral gratification to his doorman. While there are plenty of unsavory types and distasteful occurrences in NYC real estate, you’re extremely unlikely to hear a conversation at a closing about such a scenario. Even as a joke it falls flat.
Similarly misplaced is a discussion about the seller’s girlfriend Karma (Megan Simard) participating in an act of bestiality with a goat while she was high on really “good weed.” It is no surprise two audience members left mid-play.
While the play is clearly set up to be over-the-top for entertainment purposes, and not an accurate portrayal of a real NYC co-op closing, it’s written as if the writer had never been to one. Curtis says it was inspired by the real thing in a recent interview but it’s hard to believe.
This isn’t how things work in NYC real estate. Even the accurate real estate dialogue would take place long before a real closing.
For example, both Peter (on behalf of his young, bohemian girlfriend Karma) and Juliana want the chandelier, which seems to evoke some erotic memories for all. They fight about it at the closing and once they agree on who will get it, the seller’s lawyer hastily writes an addendum. This would never happen.
Much ado is made over the husband inviting his girlfriend to the closing, leading his ex to quip that closings are not spectator sports. The playwright would be wise to heed his own character’s warning. In the end she is allowed to stay. She does some yoga moves on the floor, and eats a candy necklace.
The fictional address, 636 East 76th St., 30C, is indeed one that would be located on the far East Side, and a 3,400-square-foot penthouse unit with a 325-square foot wraparound terrace could feasibly run $5,000,000, but I highly doubt a co-op’s managing agent would put the seller’s attorney in a head lock and karate chop him. Even “Million Dollar Listing” antics never go that far to ensure ratings. And I don’t think any seller’s attorney would openly smoke a joint during a closing either.
But with a play this unrealistic and just generally bad—passing out weed to the audience to get them through the hour and a half (no intermission) running time would be its only hope. If only.