by MR Anderson
The WOW Café is packed to the brim with excited energy. The traditionally malfunctioning air conditioners contribute to the communally shared body heat of the audience (would it really be Fringe without it?). With promises of a comedic romp to ease the tension, the lights dim, and Movin’ On Up (as part of The 2016 New York International Fringe Festival) begins.
This self-described “Funny-Or-Die in the graveyard” starts with a surprising dose of silence. Daniel (Jeff Gorcyca) sits quietly amongst the tombstones, waiting for an unspoken event. From behind the tombstone pops Lewis (Preston Smith). A chatterbox with no off-switch, Lewis begins his cross-examination of Daniel (much to his chagrin). Later joined by a mysterious Joan (Lauren Mack) with bandaged hands (yes, that one), the unlikely cast of characters is completed. As their conflicting personalities butt heads, they reveal greater questions of the meaning of noise, taking action, and one’s purpose.
Playwright Jeremy Kehoe’s text is reminiscent of a David Sedaris essay. His dialogue is witty, absurd, and unexpectedly endearing. Kehoe asks those questions that are thought of, but never quite given a voice, until now. Long-time producer Christian Amato dons the Director hat this time around, and his minimalist staging helps the sincerity of the piece come through in full-freeing force.
Jeff Gorcyca’s performance is pensive and thought-provoking. Set up against his two extremely contrasting cast mates, his straight-laced demeanor gives the proper weight to the piece, and humor to the others. Preston Smith is hysterical as Lewis. His non-stop gabbing makes him the perfect vehicle for Kehoe’s complex dialogue, and his ranging delivery keeps energy high. As the last character to make her entrance, Lauren Mack presents a head-strong and enticing Joan. Her questioning couples well with Smith’s, furthering Gorcyca’s frustration.
This 70-minute piece of theater succeeds most when at top speed. When considering the small cast and whip-smart dialogue, the play can get weighed down at times by muddy pacing. While understandable in its challenge, a longer run and a bit more rehearsal time could make this baby really zip.
Regardless, Movin’ On Up is a short, fun romp of a good time. You’ll come for the laughs, stay for the characters.