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Soho Repís 10 out of 12


                             By Glenn Giron 

From go itís realized that this will not be your ordinary play. Youíre handed a headset and taught how to use it and funny, unorthodox, pre show announcements are expressed to you through your new little toy.    You sit there excited like a kid waiting for a 4D show at an amusement park to begin, you canít wait, and you donít have to.  The people running around in blacks you mistook for crew are actors and you are immersed.  Youíre in the universe of the play wholly and fully. It has already begun.  You spend the rest of the show in this state.  Everyone wants to be a fly on the wall and Anne Washburn brilliantly writes us in to be so.  The audience gets to experience one tech day (10 hours) in the life of a cast and crew putting together a show.  A period piece that is full of lavish language, costumes, love stories and ghostly nightmares that, when juxtaposed to the modern cell phones, baseball caps, and silly stage games that appear in the Ďreal worldí, lends itself well to comedy that the actors all execute brilliantly.  


Bruce McKenzie
 

The shining star of the show is Bruce McKenzie who plays Elliot, the shows director.  McKenzie brings into the room a fully fleshed character full of power and passion whose fear of not getting this show done on time is always bubbling just under the surface.  You fear he may explode at any moment and you fear it may be at you if ever you find yourself making eye contact with him as heís lost in thought. His relationship with each character is completely unique, which helps create a rich and vibrant world that you feel privileged to have a view into and at times you feel that you are perversely invading.  Now and then the stage managers and tech crew will crackle in your ear and an inside joke or a seemingly pointless story will come to life and suddenly, youíre a tetchy sitting in the house with your headset on listening to your weird coworkers go on about nothing.   It is in this nothingness that a real gem of honesty is found.  Washburn writes in seemingly pointless nonsense as it comes up when one is forced to sit in a dark theater doing the same monotonous work over and over again.  Anyone who has ever been a part of tech knows that itís 10 hours of nothing that is a fire with energy and excitement.  


Thomas Jay Ryan, Gibson Frazier, Sue Jean Kim, Nina Hellman, Bruce McKenzie (shadow)
 

Washburn balances tedium with drama perfectly and just as your finding yourself craving a moment of excitement a character will have a meltdown. Usually Paul, played precipitously on the verge of psychosis by Thomas Jay Ryan lends an almost terrifying level of intellect and he comes off as passionate yet out of control.  There would be no price too high to watch Ryan play a full on psychopath in some horror film or play. Every time you think youíve seen his fullest level of grandiosity and emotion-filled explosiveness, the next breakdown tops it.  Yet somehow, through all of his uncalled for rants the artist in you canít help but agree with him here and there.  Then, just as you as you think you canít take anymore drama from the actors your headset comes to life and you get to see the drama of the tech crew as they piece and hold together the play, a task which is always forgotten.  Sometimes itís taken for granted by the actors but itís always unnoticed by the audience, which is probably a success for a show in the end, a success, by the way, that the actual crew of 10 out of 12 finds.  How they managed to tech and call a show while a fake show was being called hurts the brain to even try to comprehend.  This was a feat that anyone, performer or crewmember, did not let go unnoticed.  

Frazier, Hellmann, and Kim all lend their talents to the production beautifully.  Each of the actors plays two roles, one being the actor in rehearsal, and one being a character in the play being etched.  These actors separate the two roles theyíre playing astonishingly well.  Washburn is partly to blame for this as she wrote out the language so that it is very different when in the world of the play being rehearsed. The decision to make the show within the show a period piece adds more than just humor; it also helps to keep the worlds separate.  So much so that it is impossible to confuse the two.  And watching the characters that are being rehearsed fall to the side to make way for the actors who are in tech makes for an even richer sense and overall belief that this whole tech process is actually happening right now, in this theater in Soho, and you just happen to be witness to it all.  It all makes for nail biting, awe inspiring (yes at times the audience literally ďawedĒ), and genuine live theatre.  When the show ends it is all too soon.  One really could have stayed there for 10 whole hours watching the lives of these actors unfold.  


Sue Jean Kim, Quincy Tyler Bernstine (in back), Garrett Neergaard (back to audience), Nina Hellman ( w/ guitar), Bruce McKenzie (back), David Ross, Conrad Schott, Leigh Wade, Gibson Frazier
 

The whole show is wrapped beautifully with a monologue explaining why theater people do this crazy thing they do.  The cast and crew join together in a Kumbaya-esque song and dance replete with camaraderie that is palpable and appreciated, and again, genuine.  This show is one of few that could be appreciated more than once.  Rarely does a show speak to or represent art in a way that is not cheesy, over the top, or masturbatory.  Washburn and director Les Waters have pieced together a work that truly represents ďa day in the lifeĒ.  Thank the gods of theater that this production has been extended and may it continue to be extended until every actor and producer in New York City gets a chance to take it in.  Truly necessary to the art form!

10 out of 12
Soho Rep (46 Walker Street)
June 10th  through July 5th
For tickets call the box office at 212-352-3101
 or online at sohorep.org.