nytheatre.com review by Danny Bowes
October 1, 2010
It's hard to adequately praise a show as good as Transatlantica, because running down a list of all the things that are entertaining and brilliant about it spoil the surprise of discovery, and part of the sheer joy of experiencing this show is not having any idea what's coming next. It's only minor hyperbole to say that Transatlantica has everything that is good and true about theatre (genius dialogue, characters randomly breaking into song, melodramatic deaths, sword fights, etc). It is, simply, the best show I've seen this year.
Kenny Finkle's script satirizes just about every conceivable convention of theatre, and is impossible to pin down into any convenient categorization. The plot is less a narrative than a joke on plot, plunking a group of wondrously odd characters in the drawing room of a well-to-do psychiatrist (if he indeed even is one) and turning them loose. The script is brimming with allusions to this and that, wordplay for wordplay's sake, and some truly magnificent bad jokes (including one that defies any other description than "turning the major works of Chekhov into an orgy"). It is an ambitious script, and massive. Director Jason Schuler does an extraordinary job of making this potentially unwieldy thing seem effortless; the pace is just brisk enough that the energy never flags, but not so fast that the audience misses anything.
Of course, great writing and directing will only get a show so far. Ultimately you need actors, and this cast delivers with style. From Anna Foss Wilson's demi-operatic (literal) femme fatale to Keith Chandler's flamboyantly melancholy narcissist theatre director (are there any other kinds, really?) to Tim Donovan Jr's beleaguered "straight" man to Evelyn Sullivan's flame-haired stranger from another land to Pierre-Marc Diennet's insane police inspector to Eben Moore's turn as the thoughtless egomaniac with whom literally every other character in the play is either in love or erotically fascinated, the cast functions as one energetic, perfectly aligned unit. Each, in his or her own way, is a delight to watch, and together they sing (at times literally).
Visually, Transatlantica is stunningly hallucinatory. Mathieu Lorain Dignard does not actually appear on stage, but is responsible for several hilarious sight gags; this will make sense when you see the show, which you should. The set, by designer Gian Marco Lo Forte and scenic artist Carolyn Bonnani, is packed with dozens of tiny, subtle details, each of which adds to the overall atmosphere and tone of the show. Jennifer Paar's costumes are flamboyant, hilarious, and do as much to evoke character as the supremely talented writer, director, and cast. The small handful of musical numbers are not only funny but give the cast a chance to display surprising deftness with some truly odd instruments.
If the suggestion that you should see Transatlantica at your first possible convenience has, so far, been too subtle, let there be no mistake: catch this show at some point in its run. At least five things will blow your mind, and at least five other things will make you laugh harder than you've laughed in living memory. Transatlantica is delightful on every possible level, and is a reminder of what theatre can and should be: a work of great artistic merit that is also fantastically entertaining.