So off I go to UNDER St. Marks to see No Tea Production’s new show, LIARS directed by Lindsey Moore, when on my way there I’m handed a lottery ticket by a man who’s slumped over a mail box. ”It’s … the winning … ticket ….,” he gasps to me, his arm outstretched, “… take it. I’m … I’m …” and with that he falls to the ground. ”What? He’s what?” I kick him a bit. ”What are you? Dying? Are you dying? Is that what you’re saying?” I turn to my husband, annoyed, with a WTF? look on my face, but he just shrugs. So I take the lottery ticket, cash it in, and find it’s worth a million bucks. Then I hire some scrub to write this review for me while I pack for my cruise around the world. Bon Voyage!
Of course, I’m lying. But you already knew that … just like the audience of LIARS … the laughs are built in when you know that everything that comes out of anyone’s mouth is NOT the truth.
LIARS is comprised of eight short plays written by eight different people, two of whom (Jeremy Mather and Jeff Sproul) go on to act in most of the other plays as well as their own. It’s basically like attending a performance of SNL – same faces, different outfits.
The night starts off a little slow with Sausage Party written by Jeremy Mather. Maybe it’s been a long time since I’ve been to a party, or maybe my tolerance for the bitchy woman/whipped man pairing has gotten a little low, but this one just didn’t set it up for me. Still, the great thing about a night of short plays (or really … skits) is that if you’re not particularly grooving along with it, at least you’ve only got to spend another six or seven minutes with it.
Weight by Lindsey Moore (you’ve seen her name before – she’s the director) is better. Alicia Barnatchez who was just glimpsed briefly one scene before does a great here-I-am-in-the-bathroom-mirror / just-got-up-and-how-the-hell-did-I-change-THIS-MUCH-overnight? routine. She’s fun to watch, even if Weight does fall a little flat at the very end.
And right there lies the key, really … when you’ve only got this short burst of time to engage an audience, you’ve really got to work it. Moreover, you’ve got to know how to end it. A few plays were going great, only to end on this odd note that left the audience with more of a “huh?” than a “ha!” … but the next play definitely ended with a rotflmao, imho.
LOL by Caroline O’Hare lived up to its title – I was lol’ing consistently throughout as six people deftly switched out two personas who found each other in a chat room and adapted themselves right before our eyes. Anyone who’s ever had an on-line encounter of any kind (from those who just dip their toe into the waves, right on up to those who date almost exclusively in the virtual world before coming up with some excuse as to why they can’t meet in person) will find this six minutes the standout of the evening.
Well, that would be until The Meeting by Jesse Jones … where Olivia Horton as Brett channels a fast talking agent with so much vigor that I didn’t want this one to end. Jesse Bernath does an admirable job as her client, but this short piece crackles as Olivia whips her way around the stage and babbles cliches at lightening speed.
Which brings out another odd things about watching 8 plays in succession … seeing an actor shine in her 3rd role of the evening after just being marginally impressive in her prior two roles. No way to tell if it was the writing, the directing or the role, but it’s just odd to see someone come forth and shimmer and then retreat back to being a support player.
Peek by Daniel McCoy had a lot of nice moments in it, and I liked Jeremy Mather (Richard) best here as he waffles his way through a first date with Sarah (Alicia Barnatchez again, and even more charming). Once again though, this short takes you a long way and then trips on the last line … and I’m not sure I actually figured out what D. Robert Wolcheck (Man) was actually doing the whole time.
Wisconsin by Joe Musso is Absurdist theatre through and through, I don’t think I’ve ever laughed at Wisconsin brick cheese in my life. Once again, Alicia Barnatchez wins you over immediately, and Jeff Sproul proves that he’s the master of disguise since I thought I was seeing him for the first time when actually he’d played two other characters by this point.
Lore by Matt Sears follows suit in the absurdist vein as little Janey (Sabrina Farhi) stumbles upon Santa (Jeremy Mather) eating cookies in her kitchen in mid July … he’s despondent, covered in green peppermint-smelling elf’s blood and sporting an eye patch. It’s like Jason Bourne meets Miracle on 34th Street … anything more would give it away.
The evening ends with Evacuation Plan by chameleon Jeff Sproul whom I didn’t recognize YET AGAIN as he starred in his own play. I could tell you what the title means, but it actually would be better if it came as a surprise. What I CAN tell you is it made me want to brush up on my Elvish … and it also made me happy that my early days of dating were behind me. There’s a pun there … but you’d have to see the show to understand it.
All in all, LIARS was an entertaining hour & change … right down to the great use of all those wonderful 80′s songs that employed the word “Lies” such as Lies, Lies, Lies by the Thompson Twins, Little Lies by Fleetwood Mac and Would I Lie to You by the Eurythmics … making set changes fun again.
The production, presented by Horse Trade Theater Group and No Tea Productions, will play at UNDER St. Marks (94 St. Marks Place between 1st and A) May 7-23, Thursday through Saturday at 8pm.
Tickets ($15) are available by calling Smarttix at 212-868-4444 or online at www.horseTRADE.info