BWW Reviews: Two’s Company When A CLASSY THREESOME is Concerned
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Wednesday, February 17, 2010; Posted: 05:02 PM - by Matthew David
“Anyone for a Classy Threesome: A Night of Multimedia Adaptations!” is an evening of one act plays currently being produced by JustASK Productions. The individual plays are entitled: “Spinner Spirits Presents Showpiece Theatre Starring Rex McDeevit” by P. Case Aiken III, “1,001 Peorian Nights” by Adam Samtur and “Song Five, Circle Two” by Matthew Kagen. According to the program, the three plays were inspired by “Othello,” “1,001 Peorian Nights” and “Dante’s Inferno” respectively.
The first play of the evening, “Spinner Spirits…” concerns itself with a 1950’s radio show. An amusing cast of characters have assembled to record a half hour program that tells the story of a town in the wild west that finds itself in crisis. The star of the radio program, Rex McDeevit, a young white man has been cast as the hero of the story… a young black man. Despite this interesting colorblind casting, everything seems to be going brilliantly until the sponsor of the program, Alan Spinner, decides that having a black hero may be alienating to his audience. He insists that the actors change the plot of the script, on air, to give it a less ‘colorful’ spin - chaos ensues.
The concept of the piece is very good. It’s fun and holds the audience’s interest with a fairly simple conceit. There is a subplot concerning a workplace affair that doesn’t have time to be fully developed within the constraints of the one act form and therefore comes off as extraneous. Mr. Aiken would be wise to either expand the piece to give more depth to this story line or cut it completely. The direction by Adam Samtur is efficient and the performances are generally strong. Lauren Lopez gives an excellent comedic performance with a campy delivery of various 1950’s radio commercials. She best understands the style and social commentary Mr. Aiken is attempting to deliver.
"1,001 Peorian Nights" is the most sitcom-esque play of the evening. It is sprinkled with some veryfunny one-liners and a plethora of "dude-humor." The plot is rather simplistic: a boy who wants to get laid is set up on a date, by his friend, with a girl who wants something more meaningful. Through spending several nights together and watching a set of DVDs she brings with her to his house, the boy discovers that he is open to more than sex as well.
The play works best when it is being irreverent and comical. As soon as it tries to go for something deeper it starts to feel trite and untrue. It is hard for us to believe that in the course of a few evenings with this girl and her DVD box set the entire moral fiber of the boy we saw at the top of the play has been forever altered. The overall success of the show is largely due to Steven White’s performance of the ever-aroused Shawn. He embodies the stereotypical frat-boy to the hilt. His timing, like that of Ms. Lopez in the previous play, is impeccable and this proves to be a huge asset to the script. Michael Wetherbee also turns in a strong performance as Shawn’s friend Jeff.
"Song Five, Circle Two," is the final piece of the night. Unfortunately, it is everything that people think of when they hear the phrase "Off-Off-Broadway." Actors crawl on the ground, moan, scream, kiss, talk in endless nonsensical soliloquies and generally leave the audience wondering what exactly just happened. It is as if the writer, director and cast are in on some brilliant secret but are actively trying to keep it from the rest of us. Theatre is one of the few art forms in which the audience plays an immediate, active and important role in the process. At it’s best the theatre is a beautiful communal experience where we laugh, cry and ultimately change together, performers and audience alike; but with pieces like "Song Five, Circle Two" the audience is treated as though they are unwelcome or unworthy to come on the journey that they have just paid good money to take. This is the type of self-indulgent, unintelligible, inexcusable theatre that gives Off-Off-Broadway a bad name.
That said, JustASK Productions is clearly a company worth keeping on the Off-Off Broadway radar. They are young, talented, innovative, passionate and driven. If they can start to focus their vision, their collective voices and fully embrace their audiences they will find much success