By Alexander Janosek Doyle; Directed by Amanda Levie
Produced by The Box Colony Theatre
Part of the 2016 New York International Fringe Festival
Off Off Broadway, Play
Runs through 8.27.16
VENUE #8: WOW Café, 59-61 East 4th Street
by Charlotte Arnoux on 8.15.16
Julian Gordon, Natasha Edwards, Carlo Fiorletta in Is That Danny DeVito? And Other Questions from West of the Hudson.
Photo by Melissa Weiss.
BOTTOM LINE: A millennial version of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot that weaves in great laughs and lots of tender moments.
Samuel Beckett’s canonical tragicomedy Waiting for Godot—known for being a play in which “nothing happens”—serves as inspiration for Alexander Janosek Doyle’s Is That Danny DeVito? And Other Questions from West of the Hudson. With Godot as a skeleton and absurdism as their M.O., the cast and crew skillfully add a meaty relevancy and energizing 21st-century twist to the classic play.
Doyle’s play centers around Dusty (Julian Blake Gordon) and Geoff (Finn Kilgore), two twenty-something semi-intellectuals currently studying at a Massachusetts college. Together, they wait for a bus back to their home state of New Jersey. The quirky title refers to a man, unseen by the audience, whose identity is a source of tension between the two friends. Just like Vladimir and Estrogen in Beckett’s play, Dusty and Geoff’s primary action is to wait. That is not to say, however, that the play does not move and that I, in turn, was not moved by the actors’ performances, especially Kilgore's. Indeed, the play offers up touching moments of reflection on themes such as identity, friendship, and change. Director Amanda Levie is tasked with the tall order of staging a show that is primarily an extended conversation—she does this with tact and poignant humor that kept me on my toes.
Geoff and Dusty’s relationship is at the heart of the play—we see them playing a game of repartee ping-pong while also choosing this frustrating moment to express some tough love. In a particularly wistful moment, Kilgore pulls off a beautiful expression of those moments when we hold our friends up to high standards and the disappointment that comes when they don’t meet them. Kilgore’s capturing honesty is met with Gordon’s lively man-child physicality and humor.
To pass the time, Dusty and Geoff chat with two bizarre locals: a nameless woman with an unconventional job (played by a brassy Natasha Edwards) and a character they call Ass-Biter (played with touching wisdom by Carlo Fiorletta). The play ends with a slightly clumsy wrap-up that could have been avoided had Doyle embraced the constraints of the Beckettian dream-state a little further.
As a Beckett fan myself, I was thrilled to watch an adaptation that stayed true to his style while adding a sense of static frustration that is unique to this particular generation. Who knows, maybe millennial absurdism will catch on as a new style in the downtown theater scene?
(Is That Danny DeVito? And Other Questions From West of the Hudson plays at VENUE #8: WOW Café, 59-61 East 4th Street, through August 27, 2016. The running time is 1 hour 35 minutes, including a 10-minute intermission. Performances are Sat 8/13 at 2:15; Tue 8/16 at 9:15; Sat 8/20 at 2:15; Tue 8/23 at 4:30; and Sat 8/27 at 7. There is no late seating at FringeNYC. Tickets are $18 and are available at fringenyc.org. For more information visit isthatdannydevito.com.)
Is That Danny DeVito? And Other Questions From West of the Hudson is by Alexander Janosek Doyle. Directed by Amanda Levie. Production Design is by Joe Velez. Stage Manager is Pedro Hernandez. The show is produced by Melissa Weiss. The show was first produced by The Box Colony Theater in conjunction with Art House Productions in Jersey City.
The cast is Julian Blake Gordon, Finn Kilgore, Natasha Edwards, and Carlo Fiorletta.