by Bre Northrup
For its final performance as part of the Midtown International Theater Festival, solo performer and playwright PJ Landers performed his piece, Universal Dad, for a packed house. His collaborator and director Anthony Grasso served Landers by workshopping and cutting the two-hour long piece to fit the one hour slot in the festival. Universal Dad tells Lander’s story about his emotional journey to find his father at the age of twenty-nine. Landers eloquently describes the ways in which the absence of his father as a child allows for him to understand his own role as a father. Considering his comedic background, Landers did not fail to incorporate humor and punchlines into his emotional retelling of his past. His comedic side also pulled through during characterization for a variety of voices he incorporated into the piece: big Italian men of New York, his Irish mother, and even apartment receptionists. Landers used his ability to make people laugh. With the help of Grasso, Universal Dad moved the audience and did not leave a dry eye in the house.
Universal Dad was performed as part of the 16th Annual Midtown International Theater Festival at The Davenport Theatre, 354 W. 45th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenues.