NY Theater Review By Brian Scott Lipton
The Atlantic Theater Company may have been founded by David Mamet, and had great success presenting the works of everyone from Harold Pinter to Martin McDonagh. But it may still have gained the greatest notoriety for being the originator of the Tony Award-winning musical “Spring Awakening.” So while watching its new tuner “Found,” the question immediately pops into your head: “Can lightning strike twice?”
Unquestionably, these two pieces, while quite different, share some salient characteristics, including a mostly youthful cast of excellent performers, an often irreverent tone to its source material — which is loosely based around the creation of the cult magazine “Found,” — an infectious, modern-sounding score (this time by the very talented Eli Bolin), and the use of a creative modern dance choreographer (the popular Monica Bill Barnes, whose movement style seems influenced by “Spring Awakening” genius Bill T. Jones). And, unlike “Spring Awakening,” “Found” is riotously funny! Until it’s not. And that’s when I began to hear echoes of troubling thunder rather than seeing that lightning bolt.
Indeed, the show’s first act is close to perfect, as the recently fired Davy (the highly appealing Nick Blaemire) finds an odd love/hate note on his car – addressed not to him but someone named Mario – which leads him to spend his days finding more discarded notes, and letters (which are often projected by Darell Maloney onto David Korins’ brilliantly creative note-lined set). Soon Davy and his two roommates, the level-headed, slightly morose bartender Denise (“Heathers” star Barrett Wilbert Weed, who is quickly becoming our most valuable young leading lady) and the overweight, slackerish Mikey D (a fine Daniel Everidge) decide to turn this discarded written ephemera into a magazine.
The reading of the various absurd notes and lists – as well as the enactment of some of them into song and dance numbers — by the three stars and six truly amazing ensemble performers (Christina Anthony, Andrew Call, Orville Mendoza, Molly Pope, Danny Pudi, and Sandy Rustin) – elicits howls of laughter. And even if the first-act closer “Johnny Tremain” isn’t exactly in keeping with the rest of the show (as it simply imagines why a particular note might have been written), it’s a brilliant, uproarious sketch 100 times funnier than anything “Saturday Night Live” has delivered in years.
Soon, “Found” not only becomes a well-selling magazine and inspires a popular touring show starring Davy, it eventually attracts the interest of Kate (the lovely if slightly chilly Betsy Morgan), a wannabe Hollywood producer who wrote one of the notes, and who seduces Davy both romantically and professionally. And so the trouble begins – in every sense.
Kate and Davy’s love affair, along with Davy’s sudden quest for fame and fortune, causes a major rift between him and Denise, who pines for him without ever letting him know. And when Kate’s desire to get the show on the air overrides any of Davy’s idealistic ideas (unrealistic as they are) about television, that coupling soon goes south.
Sadly, this whole section, which takes up most of Act II, takes too long to get resolved, relies on cliché after cliche, and deflates the lightness of everything that has come before. (A scene where Davy and Kate crash the bar mitzvah of the network head to make a pitch is both unnecessary and ridiculous). Worse, co-authors Hunter Bell and Lee Overtree (who also directed) fail to keep the audience laughing consistently enough – or caring about the obvious outcome.
Without question, should you find yourself a ticket to “Found,” snap it up immediately. The show contains such originality and hilarity, it would be a shame to miss it. But here’s a helpful note to everyone involved: if you want to move it to Broadway, you need to spring into action and rethink the second act. And patrons beware as well; if you drop something you’ve written on 20th Street after the show, expect it to turn up in print or stage sometime soon.
“Found” runs through Sunday, November 9 at Atlantic Theater Company’s Linda Gross Theater (336 West 20th Street). Call 866-811-4111 for tickets.