Off Broadway (and sometimes Broadway) Reviews and Information.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

The Sabbath Girl Delights at 59E59

The Sabbath Girl, now at 59E59 theaters, is a wonderful little romantic comedy of a show.  It starts Lauren Annunziata as Angie, a together young lady with a desire able job at a gallery and a brand-new apartment. As she shows off the apartment to her grandmother, Angelina Fiordellisi, we can feel the happiness.

She is interrupted from setting up her place by a knock on the door. This introduces Seth, Jeremy Rische, her neighbor. Seth is looking for the old occupant, who would sometimes help him on the sabbath. And now we have the New York meet cute. Together young girl, in her first apartment without roommates, and shy, adorable Orthodox Jewish man who needs help. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see where this is going, but it is a sparkling journey none the less.

The Sabbath Girl with Lauren Annunziata and Ty Molbak

The complications are raised by Ty Molbak as Blake, a hot new artist Angie is trying to get at the gallery and Laura Singerman as Seth’s sister, Rachel. Ty is a great flirt, sexual and interesting, a far cry from the overbearing and obnoxious suitors in most rom-coms. It is great choice as we see Angie’s interest in this man grow.

Seth’s sister, Rachel, on the other hand, is a bit more formulaic. She does not approve of Seth’s attraction to a woman outside of their world and is not pleased. Rachel attributes Seth’s interest in Angie as a response to a bitter divorce and failing in his faith. Both obstacles are overcome in The Sabbath Girl that runs along quickly and well-paced. It is a smooth 85 minutes, but never feels rushed.

The older voice of sanity here is grandmother Nona, played by experienced performer Angelina Fiordellisi. Nona is Angie’s sounding board and confidante. She offers reasonable advice, a shoulder to lean on and is a constant reminder of the happiness real love can bring.

The Sabbath Girl was written by Cary Gitter and directed beautifully by Joe Brancato. If you are looking for a nice evening out, The Sabbath Girl is great. And, if you see it with someone you love, it is even better.

The Sabbath Girl
Playwright: Cary Gitter | Director: Joe Brancato | Cast: Lauren Annunziata, Angelina Fiordellisi, Ty Molbak, Jeremy Richse, Lauren Singerman

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Aren't Roommates the Worst? - The Commons

There is a certain humor in The Commons that will appeal to many people. It is that type of mean spirited, uncomfortable humor that borders on bullying, but is okay since it is on stage because we know the characters aren’t real. Usually played out in family serio-comedies where the various family members can’t escape, like Thanksgiving or a will reading. In case of The Commons, it is four roommates who agree to spend a year together in the form of a New York lease.

The four roommates are older lease holder Robyn (Ben Newman), combustible exotic Janira (Olivia Khoshatefeh), mean girl Dee (Julia Greer) and loser Cliff (Ben Katz) - who is pathetic because he tries to be a nice guy. The relationship dynamics are developed and then hardened with the repetition of the dreaded roommate meeting. The meetings usually come down to this; something has bothered Dee and she will explain it. Then she will explain it four more times, as if to a slow child in a remedial class. Cliff will apologize and try to do better, but Dee has to keep complaining about it long after everyone has agreed with her.

l-r: Ben Katz, Ben Newman, Julia Greer in THE COMMONS at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Carol Rosegg
 There is no making Dee happy. She complains that she lives in the loudest room but won’t change despite everyone’s offer. Dee can’t stand dirty dishes, even after someone else has done them. Dee values honesty, but actively makes fun of people behind their back. Cliff’s greatest character flaw is that he is a male and is trying to be pleasant. It is not clear if Dee hates all men, or just the two that live in the apartment with her, but she hates them both with a gusto unbounded.  But then again, she’s not wild about Janira either.

I am not sure if The Commons has a moral, besides don’t live in a communal situation. There was no character growth, Dee was just as mean as she moved out as she was during the majority of the show, and the other characters were still just as confused by it. The one person Dee did get along with was Cliff’s ex-girlfriend Anna (Olivia Abiassi), a presence that was introduced and swept away too quickly.

Playwright Lily Akerman has captured the dynamic of a horrible living situation, but I am not sure that the story tells us much. Director Emma Miller moves the pace along well, The Commons doesn’t feel rushed, and it does cover the year in 100 minutes. The sniping was too mean spirited for me to enjoy, but it will hit the spot for many audience members.

The Commons
Playwright: Lily Akerman | Director: Emma Miller | Cast: Ben Newman, Olivia Khoshatefeh, Julia Greer, Ban Katz, Olivia Abiassi