By Sandi Durell
“We’re orphans now!” cries Maggie. Orphans at age 60? Well, when your last parent passes on at about 90 . . . but, who’s to say. Let me not rush Amy and The Orphans along, however. This many times hilarious comedy by Lindsey Ferrentino (Ugly Lies the Bone) moves in many directions as the orphans in question include a younger Downs syndrome sister, who has spent most of her life in facilities, away from her family.
This Roundabout Theatre Company production, lovingly and comically directed by Scott Ellis, verges on the edge of sitcom quality, one-liners heavily relied upon and most times brilliantly executed by the older sibling orphans Maggie (deliciously delightful Debra Monk) and her brother Jacob (the serious straight man Mark Blum) who live on opposite sides of the country and have come together for their father’s funeral out east on Long Island. Maggie, divorced, is on the emotional wacky side, while Jacob is fixated on his health and juicing many times a day, along with finally getting braces. On the way, they stop at Amy’s facility to pick her up and try and tell her the sad news – Mom died and Dad followed quickly behind her.
Amy is played by Jamie Brewer (American Horror Story) who has Downs and making her stage debut. Her best friend is pregnant Kathy (a hilarious, feisty Vanessa Aspillaga) who works at the group home as a caregiver and soon wins the battle of who’s really in charge of Amy to the chagrin of her siblings. Amy’s other BF is boyfriend Nick Nolte. Aspillaga’s monologue is worthy of a one-woman show!
The obvious guilt felt by Maggie and Jacob for their lack of involvement with Amy through the years is evident and the shocking reveal to come regarding the past is the angst and pathos that juxtaposes all the comic portrayals.
That’s one side of this tale and almost like seeing two plays on the same stage as another story opens the production. We’re at a couples’ retreat where a very highly agitated young woman Sarah (Diane Davis) and her husband Bobby (Josh McDermitt (The Walking Dead) are attempting to work out a rocky marriage. She complains that all he wants to do is eat and it shows, especially when he removes his shirt; he has problems with the fact that she hides herself in the bathroom to undress rather than how it was when she’d prance around half nude. Sarah seems ready to burst while Bobby maintains a more even persona.
How does all this have anything to do with the Orphans? BIG spoiler alert here in the excellent crafting of Lindsey Ferrentino’s new play.
Amy is extremely talented with her short responsive jabs throughout but really shows her muster as she talks a blue streak of famous movie quotes, delivered with precise timing, in her closing monologue. Monk and Blum are a perfect team reminiscent of vaudeville superstars.
There are surprises aplenty, albeit you have to allow for many unrealistic situations during the 90 minutes, but you’ll leave the theater feeling you’ve witnessed a really worthwhile production.
The sets are designed by Rachel Hauck, with lighting by Kenneth Posner and music and sound design by John Gromada.
Note that Edward Barbanell (also a Downs actor) shares the role with Amy and the title changes to “Andy and The Orphans.”
Photos: Joan Marcus
Amy and The Orphans – Laura Pels Theater, 111 West 46 Street, NYC through April 22, 2018.