Normally I wouldn’t bother reviewing something that you have no possibility of seeing (it was a one-night-only thing), but this evening got me thinking about things like how short our generation’s attention span is, and how strange it is that I’ve realized I’m more likely to commute from Brooklyn to Manhattan to see an unknown hour-long production than a three-hour one. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good three-hour play (see my Death of a Salesman review), but there’s nothing worse if twenty minutes in you realize it’s destined to be a complete waste of your time. Anyway:
- There were 4 plays and I thoroughly enjoyed 3 of them.
- Common themes well-explored: dreams, war, what life must be like in a first-world country, death.
- Loved hearing the Spanish mixed with English. I don’t speak Spanish, but I was usually able to figure out what was being said and the mixing was a pure audible treat.
- The second play, ‘A White Night’s Dream’ was my favorite. In just a few lines, the two characters became real, relatable people. I loved how genuinely enthralled the male character was at hearing the progression of the female character’s dream. And his harping obsession with Al Pacino. And the female’s shortening of Peter Brook to just ‘Brook’, the visionary director. Wonderful job making me continuously ask the question ‘and then what?’
- The final play (a monumental one-woman monologue) had excellent use of language that painted gorgeous visual images. Also great uses of sound.
- None of the endings really worked. Well, I liked the third play (which was a little too unrelentingly serious for me) retroactively lightening the whole ordeal by claiming ‘aliens’ as the explanation for the missing daughter that tore a family apart… but it seems I’m one of the few who did. The first play just petered out, the second play had kind of a strange death sequence that didn’t resonate for me, and the fourth play should have ended about a minute before it did– on the excellent line ‘I’m going home to make pudding for breakfast!’
- Interestingly enough, all the plays could have used some editing down. I think a lot of writers decide they’re going to write a ten-minute play, then come up with a five-minute idea, then stretch it out to ten minutes.
- The first play didn’t work for me at all. I didn’t care about the characters, I didn’t feel stakes, I wasn’t rooting for anything to happen. Just awkward shit and sex jokes.
- Wow. I don’t know if it was just because this was a world-premiere performance, but the energy and acting here was absolutely superb on all fronts.
- Giancarlo Esposito was given the chance to be both more loud/extroverted, and much more quiet/vulnerable than when he plays Gus on Breaking Bad. That guy has such control of his craft– such a pleasure to watch.
- The performance of the night, however, might actually go to Zach Grenier who plays a stroke victim with a troubled past. It would have been so easy for his character to become one-dimensional Eeyore-esque comedic relief, but the depth of his performance provided both levity and powerful weight to many of the themes in the show, including a distrust of miracles and the corrupting influence of money.
- Excellent pacing. Pauses were all in the right places. Lovely quiet scenes told mountains about the characters in them (and in later scenes, wordlessly forged a connection between them)
- Characters played off each other with genuine conflict– I had empathy for all involved in this as they all felt like the protagonists in their own way.
- As soon as I realized the main couple was an interracial marriage I was dreading some over-wrought commentary on it. Race actually had really nothing to do with the story (despite three minority cast members), and I appreciated that. There were plenty of ‘hot topics’ in the play that would have been easy to zoom in on to the point where you can virtually hear the writer shouting their political stance from the characters’ mouths, but that was never the case here.
- The metaphor was super heavy-handed, but I loved a scene where two guys eat a gingerbread house while discussing foreclosure. Delicious.
- Last scene could have been a disaster– all the characters in a tight space talking for what felt like about half an hour with almost no pauses. A real tight rope, but it was pulled off flawlessly, bouncing between humor, sadness, tension, insight, and emotional reversals. Masterful.
- Favorite lines all came from the husband: “I’m a secular Jew. I don’t know what that is, but there’s a lot of us!” and “My doctor just died. He told me I would die and now he’s dead. You know what I call that? Justice.”
- distracting snowflakes kept falling the entire show from the catwalk (mistake)
- ending wanted to end on a cathartic note… instead it was just a pensive note.
- while it was super well-acted and scripted, it didn’t quite rock my world. New York Theatre is still too safe for me.
Tales from the Stagedoor…
- Giancarlo Esposito is a great big ball of enthusiasm and energy. Lots of hugs and kisses to people he knew, and genuine kindness and gratefulness toward people he didn’t know (like me). When he told me stories, he put his hand on my shoulder; very mentor-like. He’s so busy now between this, Once Upon a Time, and the new JJ Abrams/Jon Favreau show Revolution. On the downlow– he has one week of free time in the coming months and it will likely be devoted to filming some Breaking Bad flashbacks.
- Zach Grenier was very low-key and dismissive of his remarkable performance. Poor guy deserves to have his career skyrocket the way Mr. Esposito’s is. Surprisingly, I got a bashful laugh out of him when I said I loved him in Fight Club.
- John Patrick Shanley is super smiley. And has a really young wife/girlfriend(?) He was happy with the premiere. We talked about pacing and how impressive it was that the last scene came together so well. He said “it was a real bitch to write.” No kidding.
My first original play to be performed by a non-student-based organization will be ‘Kiosked!’ as part of the Working Theatre Collective’s 3rd Annual Festival of ’20 Erotic Shorts’. Tickets available here.
This play was also performed as part of Warehouse Architecture Theatre‘s ‘Laugh Til You Say WhAT’ comedy showcase for charity in Fall of 2009 at the Schine Underground at Syracuse University. The original version is 20 minutes though, and this production is a shorter, 5-minute version.
But you know what they say, 5 minutes in heaven is better than 1 minute in heaven.