Thursday, July 9, 2009

"Stunning," my review

I went to see this play with great anticipation after reading the glowing review by David Cote, in "Time Out New York."

"Stunning" is about a married couple who lives on Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn. The protagonists are a 40ish Ike who is married to a 16 year-old Lily, who is a Syrian Jew. And there are a few other assorted characters who are supporting players in Ike and Lily's sterile and immaculate home. They exist in an attempt to bring high drama and comedy, thereby complicating the marriage.

My first reaction was that the actors seem to be playing stereotypical caricatures of their roles. Now, this may be the problem of the direction, but I do know that an actor in both drama and comedy must come from a place of truth. There was never any moment that I believed Cristen Milioti as Lily. She is working so hard at "being 16," that she seems silly and false in her efforts. And she uses a cloying whiny voice as a device to appear young. On stage, she appears absurd. She makes wide-eyed facial expressions to the point where she seemed like Sarah Silverman doing a character as part of some comedy club stage shtik. And the voice she uses is almost offensive. I did not believe for a minute that Lily's husband would be with her.

And when the play sharply turns direction and expects the audience to believe Lily would have the confidence to fall in love with Blanche, I was surprised. Blanche would never have wasted her time with such a foolish Lily.

Charlayne Woodard, as Blanche, is an amazing actor. She did bring nuances of believable emotion to the stage. So did Danny Mastrogiorgio, who played Ike. His performance was chilling in parts and he has a very strong stage presence. He reminded me at times of a menacing Eric Roberts.

Jeanine Serrales, as Shelly, also seems a caricature of a personna. She is so mean and nasty and loud that she chews up the scenery. She is trying too hard to "be funny"... and in comedy, that is a mistake.

The end was dramatic... but again not believable. And also at the end, the character of Lily just seems to have gone totally insane.

Well, it is what it is. It is "satisfactory" if you do not analyze it and watch it like it is comprised of performances in a scene study class. And the first scene? Get a grip, ladies. You are on stage, not on Mad TV.

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