nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
August 23, 2012
Jonathan Yukich's play American Midget, making its New York debut at FringeNYC, is an engaging, entertaining, and intelligent work of theater. It benefits from assured, swift direction by Noah Tuleja and the expert acting of its cast of seven. It's certainly indicative of significant talent on the part of its playwright. [Disclaimer: American Midget is published on Indie Theater Now, a website that I edit along with nytheatre.com.]
The story revolves around Albert, a young man who wants to be a painter, but constantly finds opposition to fulfilling his dream—in the persons of his mother, his psychiatrist, his teacher and, most alarmingly, a fantastical gent named Mr. Much, who pops up unexpectedly to remind Albert that he is a "midget."
Now, Albert is absolutely not a midget—not in terms of height, anyway. But Yukich's conceit seems to be that we all have to face off the forces that try to push us down, keeping us from realizing our full potential. Mr. Much is a fascinating creation; dressed in tails and a top hat, but with brazenly bright red socks, he suggests a devil character. But I took him to be something less specific: he may be whatever people and institutions that we come up against that try to rob us of our initiative and individuality.
The ending surprised me, but I always hope for a path away from ambivalence in a show like this; that's not what Yukich provides, though.
What's not ambivalent is the quality of the work on view. Aaron Bartz is sinister and wickedly charming as Mr. Much, Jared Van Heel is enormously sympathetic and thoughtful as Albert, Maria Giarrizzo is likable as his potential love interest Christine, and Rachel Simpson, Nicol Cole, and Doug Paulson are terrific in a variety of supporting roles. Rounding out the ensemble is the unseen John Bergdahl as "Voice," an omniscient being who might be God but more likely is a stage manager: American Midget plays with the device and artifice of theater as much as it examines and sometimes deconstructs some of the ways that the world works, today and eternally.
All in all, very suitable FringeNYC fare.