The Happiest Medium Review by guest contributors Anjali Koppal and Saurabh Paranjape
In Chad Beckim’s frothy romantic comedy Cookie, it is hard not to cheer for mopey, instantly likable man-child Alan as he awkwardly navigates the unexpected pitfalls and redemptions of a hastily put-together ‘Green Card marriage’ scam. Told through a series of short and consistently entertaining vignettes, Cookie is a breezy story of unlikely love that also takes the occasional light-hearted jab at society’s unspoken racial stereotypes.
Opening in Alan’s threadbare New York apartment (Haven’t we all been there?), the play wastes little time setting up its protagonist and his predicament, and this initial momentum does not let up until the curtains fall. There is never a dull moment in Beckim’s writing.
Several scenes had the audience in peals of laughter – our favorite was Alan’s hilariously surreal dream sequence where he fantasizes about his new ‘wife’. Moreover, the actors throw themselves wholeheartedly into their roles, investing each character with a quirky, genuine humanity. Top honors go to Vincent Madero as Alan, who perfects the ‘lovable-loser-in-his-30s’ act, and brings an awkward charm to his scenes with his new ‘wife’ Cookie. Yindy Vatanvan as the abrasive, fiercely independent Cookie has some fine moments, but suffers from poor character development, specifically the lack of a believable reason for her occasional, strangely aggressive behavior. Ryan Christopher Kim as Alan’s best friend Franklin and Cynthia Silver as his doting, over-protective and oh-so-slightly racist big sister Charlie offer able support, though their performances seems distinctly more affected and over-the-top compared to the central characters. However, in the end, the actors’ crackling chemistry and layered characterizations add much needed meat to an otherwise bare-bones plot.
The minimalist set design is surprisingly efficient at conveying the transformation of Alan’s apartment from a dishevelled bachelor pad to the orderly home of a domesticated adult, seemingly an allegory for Alan’s state of mind. Beckim’s direction is clean, confident, and decidedly conventional, though that’s not always a bad thing.
Cookie is definitely not a blindingly original idea (depending on your age, you may relate it to Andie MacDowell’s 1990 film ‘Green Card’ or Sandra Bullock’s 2009 rom-com ‘The Proposal’). Also, a misguided attempt at introducing unnecessary gravitas towards the end appears just a little too contrived. But these are minor missteps in what is ultimately a cohesive, witty, and wonderfully acted production that delivers a delightful hour and fifteen minutes of good humored entertainment.
VENUE #9: The Robert Moss Theater
Anjali Koppal and Saurabh Paranjape are avid seekers of good stories, told through any medium. You can follow their reviewing escapades at tinseltownspeople.blogspot.com