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… And Then She DIES At The End! – On Why Even Nicholas Sparks Can Be A Hero (Fringe Festival 2012)

by Stephen Tortora-Lee on August 13, 2012

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If you’ve read any of the many books written by author Nicholas Sparks, or seen any of the movies that inevitably come on the heels of publication, no doubt you’ve noticed a pattern.  They’re tear jerkers which stick to a formula: get the audience heavily invested in the love story of the gal and the guy … And Then … (wait for it) … She Dies At The End! This play written and directed by Christina Brosman and Elizabeth Kerin takes the cliches of all Nicholas Sparks’ stories and  wonderfully transforms the saccharine and bittersweet into a roaring fun adventure.  Lovers of fantasy adventure shows  will recognize and love the parody form which is taken to as high a level of art as Nicholas Sparks’ has taken the genre of “crymance”.

The play opens with good old-fashioned melodrama, as we hear Brennan Lee Mulligan  - the long deceased ghost of Sparks’ great-great-great granduncle Corporal Reginald Sparks  - who was one of the long line of Sparks who have been fighting for centuries “in a secret war with Hell itself”.  He introduces his descendant Nicholas as the only hope this generation has against the evil of the Demon Rodanthe who is so evil, “that even an ocean of holy water could not save us”. He holds him at bay for a little while with a haunting flute tune.

As we shift back to the world of 1996 (before The Notebook and the changes that it wrought), we see Nicholas (Alan Starzinski) enter with Callie (Sarah Black) carrying crates and canning jars with much mutual excitement over Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman and the joys of pickling.  Reginald invisibly whispers awkward phrases in Nick’s ear like a demented Cyrano De Bergerac to try and move Nick beyond his innate awkwardness and Callie leaves with a look of uncomfortable confusion.

After Callie leaves, Reginald reveals himself to Nicholas, and explains to him the charge their family has had for generations: to save the world from Rodanthe whose only weakness is the tears of mankind, particularly women “whose tears are the most potent”.  After a brief visit by Rodanthe through the magic of light and sound design (thanks to Jill Sapenoff, stage manager and production designer  Doss Freel), Nicholas -who was a bit of a slacker before- throws himself into the occupation of writing sappy romance novels that make you cry, which soon, besides keeping the demon at bay, also get him the girl, and success in life in short order.

However this is not “The End” for our heroes. The year is 2011 and people are getting used  to the power of Sparks’ crymance, his wife of 15 years, Callie, is sick of Nick being full of himself (along with always being occupied with creating his next novel)  and bellows of the Demon Rodanthe are heard closer than ever.  The only way to save the day is to get beyond his predictable writing and create his magnum opus, or else … once again the certainty of apocalypse is at hand.
To try to save his marriage Nicholas confesses the real reason why he has been so driven to write romance novels, which drives Callie to send a police officer (played also by Sarah Black again in a demeanor as tough and cold as her portrayal of Callie was sweet and sincere) to take him into an insane asylum.

The third movement of this story is several months later when Reginald brings poltergeist friends of his for enough of a distraction  (again through brilliant sound design) to bust him out so he can write and write until he is ready for the thrilling conclusion of the play.

The writing and direction of this show keep the audience laughing and engrossed the whole time and do a good job of melding parody with touching (melo)drama in a way that could be a good example to many. I hope to see more works by this company in the future and hope the rest of their Fringe run is as successful as the show I saw.


…And Then She DIES at the End!
Writer: Christina Brosman and Elizabeth Kerin
Director: Christina Brosman and Elizabeth Kerin
When a ferocious demon threatens the survival of mankind, only tearjerker novelist Nicholas Sparks can save the world. Can he churn out a masterpiece, get the girl, and still make it home in time for “Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman”?
1h 0m   Local   New York, New York
Comedy   Improv/Sketch/Stand-up
Staycation: Literary Lane   Celeb-reality TV in Hollywood
VENUE #14: New Ohio Theatre
Fri 10 @ 7:45  Sat 11 @ 12  Sun 12 @ 7  Wed 15 @ 7:45  Sat 18 @ 6:15


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