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Spin Off

Megan McQueen


                   By R. Pikser


Bernard Pomerance, the author of the critically acclaimed Elephant Man, drafted Spin Off in 2003 and revised it in 2006.  Though Mr. Pomerance died a little over a year ago, the project of putting it on the stage continued without him and now it is being performed at the theater of Riverside Church.


The idea of mingling real and fictional worlds, which we are all familiar with from Hamlet and Six Characters in Search of  an Author, seems to be current. The idea that real people and fictional characters, all of whom function in their various worlds, can interact and serve as a critique of our world, recalls the Thursday Next novels of Jasper Fforde.  Mr. Fforde’s characters float freely in time and intercut into each others’ worlds, giving his novels a filmic feel.  In the world of Spin-Off, the main characters are rather stereotypical characters from a stock police TV series in re-runs. Somehow, because of the recursive nature of being in rerun after rerun, they have managed to figure out that they are fictional, and, since their reruns are almost over, that they are about to die definitively, not just in the series.  But in fact they are not just stereotypes; they are more than they appear to be, and they want to break out of their series and their characters to step into the outer, larger world. 


Chad Restum, Kevin Rico Angulo, Megan McQueen. Photo by Rina Kopalla.


Mr. Pomerance uses the metaphor of undeveloped characters repeating their situations over and over, yet trying to find a different path to their own existence, to pose questions all of us might well ask ourselves:  Who of us is actually real?  If we seem to be living as though we are stereotypes does that make us less real, or valuable, than others?  Who determines what is real or what is valuable?  Can we break free of what others, or we ourselves, perceive us to be and become bigger, freer, than they, or we, imagine?  Isn’t it sometimes better, more prudent, to accept what seems like a second-best option, rather than to risk one’s existence on the totally unknown?  These are life questions. 



Though the questions are good, they have not been posed as incisively as one would have wished.  Mr. Pomerance has many witty one-liners and a couple of moving monologues, especially for Sonia, who struggles to be much more than her stereotypically conceived Puerto-Rican-prostitute-strung-out-on-drugs.  Megan McQueen brings many changes of emotion and energy to Sonia as the character struggles against being boxed in and finds the courage to risk her life to find something truer to who she might be or become.  Unfortunately, the monologues tend to meander and repeat themselves without clear shape, and this lack of focus is mirrored in the way Ms. McQueen wanders the stage.  The character of TV, the television producer who has conceived of the characters in the series, is that of the true believer who is also all-powerful – unless he can be resisted.  Chad Restum plays the humor with zest and a touch of menace offering much needed contrast to the angst of the other characters.  Though TV is supposed to be real, he is like the caricature of such a person that one might see on TV – yet another level of recursiveness.


In Spin Off, Mr. Pomerance’s heart was in the right place, and one can see why the participants were willing to devote two years of their lives to this project, but the play, like the monologues, like the characters, falls victim to its trope of recursiveness and ends up lacking focus.  Spin-Off needs some rewrites.


Spin Off

September 23rd-October 13th, 2019

Riverside Theater

91 Claremont Avenue

New York, NY

Tickets $40 or call 212/870-6784.