A daffy, warm-hearted fantasy/comedy – the emotional awakening of a very bright teenaged playwright
NY Theater Review By Joel Benjamin
A sweet daffiness runs through Michael Mitnick’s Spacebar: A Broadway Play by Kyle Sugarman, the fantasy/comedy at the Wild Project in the East Village. Mitnick not only finds a way to tap into theater’s magical power to transform but also manages to make fun of its foibles and clichés. The title character, Kyle Sugarman, is a naïve Coloradan, a high schooler who writes a magnum opus, Spacebar—“not about the space key on the computer keyboard. Spacebar is about a bar in outer space”—and sends it off to “Broadway, NYC.” (Yes, “Broadway, NYC”…and Kyle actually gets a response—only in the slyly fertile imagination of Michael Mitnick!)
Kyle’s life is not so hot: he was somehow involved in the death of his sister; his alienated dad lives in New York; his mom seems to be absent; he plays video games incessantly; and despite being cute as a button, has no luck with the girls in his high school. As an escape, he has written a chaotic 500 page, unstageable sci-fi drama (which, nevertheless, appears before our very eyes on the tiny stage of the Wild Project, just as Kyle envisions it). His play is full of clichés, purple prose and cartoony caricatures. Miraculously, Kyle meets pretty and feisty Jessica and sets off to New York City at the vague suggestion of a slimy producer who surprisingly promises to stage Kyle’s play.
Throughout all his adventures in New York City, while Spacebar is being staged in a most oddball manner, it becomes clear that the force driving Kyle is the need to fill the emotional black hole caused by his absent father’s coldness. The quietly poignant final image manages to be funny and touching at the same time.
Spacebar’s director, Maggie Burrows, manages to honor both Kyle’s youthfully over-written vision and the tongue-in-cheek style of Michael Mitnick as do the actors. John Doherty plays his two oily characters with the subtlest of winks. Ana Kayne is both a character in the play-within-a-play and an actress rehearsing the play, using funny accents and telling body language. Christopher Michael McFarland is both the owner/bartender of the eponymous saloon and the actor who is rehearsing that part in New York City and manages not to be confusing or confused. Morgan Ritchie is first seen as a drunken womanizer in the play-within-the-play and three other characters. He is hilarious. Willa Fitzgerald’s Jessica manages to be both liberated and needy. Her undying support for her new friend—and possible boyfriend—Kyle is lovely to see as it unfolds. As Kyle, Will Connolly projects a youthfully nervous persona. His Kyle is intelligent and insecure. It is great to watch him find himself. (There is a wonderfully deluded “condensed biography of Kyle Sugarman” in the program that projects the life of this character well into his adulthood.)
The scenery and costumes by Dane Laffrey & Bryce Cutler are delightfully cheapo and imaginative, probably a combination of financial restraints and artistic choices.
*Photos: Hunter Canning
Spacebar: A Broadway Play by Kyle Sugarman – October 28-November 8, 2014
The Wild Project 195 East 3rd St., between Aves. A & B New York, NY
Tickets: OvationTix – 212-352-3101 or www.thewildproject.com
Running time: 80 Minutes