REFERENCE MATERIAL [3AM PIE]
nytheatre.com review by Alex Roe
Jill Jichetti’s Reference Material [3am Pie] concerns two
20-somethings who tend to procrastinate. Ellie (Jessica Jackson), a
graduate student and teacher, is failing to write a screenplay while she
fantasizes about Hamlet, vexed as she is by his fictive nature. Pat (Tim
Kelly), for whom Batman is as tormented and noble a figure as the
melancholy Dane, is an aspiring actor who consumes his time playing the
video game Tetris.
August 15, 2002
The fun part: these two bond by sharing pie at a diner, but they also share imaginations, which are populated by mentors, protectors, entertainers, and the audience. Highlights include The Informer, the delightful Ritty Mahoney as a sober and needy commentator who interprets pop and literary references for the audience until he is banished by other fantasies. Hamlet himself, appealingly played by Elias Toufexis, is enlightened in death and offers others advice on acceptance and action that he sadly lacked himself in life. And though over-long, the game show "Who Wants to Be The Most Famous Tragic Hero Ever" is a funny new actor’s nightmare.
Further cross-referencing real-life needs with philosophical meditations, the play makes continual silent asides through video projections. Mixing media can be disastrous, but Reference Material’s annotation of its live performances both deepens and expands the characters’ wry and easily distracted psyches. Production values are Fringe, but the projections are well executed, as is the surprisingly versatile lighting (Michael K. Berelson).
What’s not to like? With exceptions, the young performers lack polish, tending to step on one another’s lines and wanting the panache to really clear the footlights (a particular problem with a roaring A/C fan competing for attention.) The use of the projections is uneven—for every direct hit, there is a so-so volley. And the script itself would carry more impact if its lines were sharper and its layered structure built or unraveled to distinct effect.
Still, the warmth of the central characters’ friendship, their sometimes lavish fantasies, their ultimate call to take some action in their lives, and the play’s quirky wit make for a touching and entertaining piece of theatre.