Off Broadway (and sometimes Broadway) Reviews and Information.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The Waiting Game Brings a Bit of the Fringe to New York

The Waiting Game now at 59 E 59 Theater is direct from an award-winning run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival as Best Overseas Play. It is very much a Fringe play in that it is quickly paced, intelligent and demands a bit from an audience. When given its due, The Waiting Game is a rewarding and excellent piece of theater.

The Waiting Game explores how we hold on to people and experiences, and how we must proactively act to let them go. The story revolves around Paulo (a terrific Marc Sinoway). Paulo’s husband, Sam, lies in a coma in the hospital, brain dead, but his heart still beating a year after an overdose. Paulo is in a relationship of sorts with Tyler (Julian Joseph in a heartbreaking role). Tyler provides Paulo with companionship and sex while demanding very little in return. Paulo has trouble supplying even the little emotional support Tyler needs.

L-R: Marc Sinoway, Joshua Bouchard in THE WAITING GAME. Photo by Carol Rosegg

Paulo also must deal with Geoff (Joshua Bouchard), who was in a healthy relationship with Sam for at least a year before the overdose. Geoff believes that Sam was ready to leave Paulo and live with him, had the accidental overdose not occurred. Paulo resents the idea of Geoff much more than the reality of Geoff.  Geoff entered Paulo and Sam’s marriage as a sex partner, which was acceptable, but Sam and Geoff’s relationship grew, which was outside of the bounds of the agreement. Had Paulo and Sam’s relationship been healthy, the Geoff / Sam relationship would never have grown. As it is, Paulo resents Geoff, but doesn’t deny his importance in Sam’s world.

After waiting for Sam to leave Paulo, now Geoff is waiting for Paulo to let Sam go. Joshua Bouchard does a great job with the role of Geoff, who is sometimes very sympathetic and sometimes not sympathetic at all. On the other hand, Paulo is actively not sympathetic. Self-centered and callous, Paulo has channeled his hurt and confusion into anger and manipulativeness. He forces Tyler and Sam to jump through hoops, while offering very little in return.

The Waiting Game is not an easy play to love, as the pieces don’t fall neatly into place. It suggests emotions and forces the viewer to supply motivation. Why has Paulo retreated into himself? Is the casual drug use a symptom of Paulo’s pain, or was it the cause of Sam’s pain? Why is he such a dick to everyone? Having said that, I did love the show. I found the contradictions honest and raw.

Playwright Charles Gershman has crafted a unique vision at the crossroads of drug use, sex, marriage and HIV status. Nathan Wright has staged it interestingly and pulled out wonderful performances from the actors. It could have used a bit more dialog and a little less distracting stage business, that is where I think the straight transition from the Fringe environment hurts the result. But those are minor nits which are lost in the unique voice The Waiting Game brings.

The Waiting Game | Playwright: Charles Gershman | Director: Nathan Wright | Cast: Joshua Bouchard, Julian Joseph, Ibsen Santos, Marc Sinoway | website

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Power Dynamics Laid Bare(foot)

Barefoot is an interesting new play at the the Gene Frankel Theater. As a new show, it has a few teething
problems, but it is generally great entertainment. Clocking in at a brisk pace with no intermission,
Barefoot grabs the viewer right off and propels you through the evening.

It is basically the story of Sylvia, on the cusp of marriage and a fiance that cheated on her. Sylvia
(Kate T. Billingsly) is a successful psychiatrist from Connecticut living in a high end New York
apartment. Her life has generally be very successful. But her world is skewed by the realization
that her fiance, Robert (Judah Tobais) has cheated on her with Teddy, a rather stunning blond
with a damaged psyche. Teddy is excellently by Elissa Klie. The most engaging moments of the
show happen in the first half with the interaction between Teddy and Sylvia. Sylvia’s tough veneer
is stripped raw by Teddy’s confidence and Sylvia’ insecurities. More than that, the two women find
both camaraderie and betrayal in the details of Teddy and Robert’s story.

Elissa Klie, Judah Tobias, Kate T. Billingsley and Will Rosenfelt in Barefoot
Robert played the part of confidant and pursuer in the relationship, but Teddy was aware he was
engaged before these two had sex, and so she was complicit in the betrayal of Sylvia.

While the two women argue and bond, Robert and Marc, Teddy’s fiance, arrive. Robert is apologetic,
while Marc (Will Rosenfelt) is aggressively angry and unapologetic. These two characters are a bit u
nderdrawn, both are caricatures of the duality of male role models, wimp and bully. Ordering a pizza,
a bisexual pizza boy, Chet (Tent Cox), enters the mix to question the sexuality of Robert / the wimp.

The odd personal dynamics of the foursome is reigned back in when Teddy and Sylvia assert control
and the men are kicked out of the apartment.

Directed by Thomas C Waites, Barefoot moves well and brings both laughter and tension easily.
The show would benefit from some tightening and maybe less stereotypical behavior. There are
many moments that felt very honest and real, and some other moments that seem forced. The
acting is generally very good, with excellent turns by the women, who were giving more range to
work with.

Barefoot is a nice little show in an intimate space. The more often it is presented, I have a feeling the better it
will be. It’s limited run allowed few previews. I enjoyed it when it was great, and wanted it to be stronger
where it faltered. Rooting for a show is a sign of involvement and a key to success. You should see it,
it is a great value, and we will be hearing more from this writer in the future.

Barefoot | Playwright: Kate T. Billingsley & Thomas G. Waites, Director: Thomas C. Waites | Cast: Kate T. Billinsgley, Elissa Klie, Judah Barak Tobias, Will Rosefelt, Trent Cox