Don't Step on the Cracks
nytheatre.com review by Joe Beaudin
August 19, 2009
Once in a while, you see a piece of theatre that makes you...fall in love with theatre. Once in a blue moon, you come across a show that tells a good old story, has actors who commit to their characters and honestly listen and respond to each other, a show that genuinely makes you think, feel, remember, and sympathize and you really don't know why (yay catharsis). Don't Step on the Cracks is DEFINITELY that show.
Don't Step on the Cracks is written and performed by the Five Flights Theater Company, a group of 12 actors, writers, and directors, seemingly all recent graduates or soon-to-be graduates of Marymount Manhattan College. The show is a conglomeration of scenes and monologues that cleverly interprets and mashes various children's stories together and centers on the theme of growing up or becoming an adult. The show begins with the ensemble on stage all acting like children, verbally and physically, then suddenly freezing and reciting very adult things, and then going back to being children again. From the very beginning the theme of a child becoming an adult is conveyed clearly. The actors then break off into various scenes and monologues continuing with that theme.
Some of the scenes include: three people living in a shoe in some sort of apocalyptic world where the sky is falling, a scene where a famous dragon is being interrogated by detectives, and a monologue about the moon and a teenager's distant relationship with his parents. There is quite a mixture as some of them are more down to earth than others, but all of them are effective and all of them stitch together into a very original piece of theatre.
What works in this show is essentially the ensemble playing off of each other. It reminded me of an Upright Citizens Brigade improv show (with heart) because like those improv shows, the actors are listening and responding to each other, creating unique characters in sometimes odd environments, and at times coming back to a similar theme. The cohesiveness of the ensemble is what moved me more than anything and at one point I thought to myself, "are they doing improv right now?" I gather that this is most likely how the show was written and conceived, and if it was, then in its current stage it still maintains that freshness and a prepubescent quality.
The entire ensemble does a nice job throughout, but I have to mention some of my favorites. Nick Hepsoe and Will Lacker play two friends in a scene about the "death" of someone very important. Each actor has great comic timing and plays the ridiculous premise with such truthfulness that I was sucked into their world. Another favorite is Laurel Casillo's portrayal of a very old grandmother. With her wrap around I-have-cataracts sunglasses and her Long Island accent, Laurel literally captured the soul of a 90-year-old granny. Physically, this is probably one of the best portrayals of a "young person playing an old person" I have ever seen. She was funny and real, and I wanted to help her walk across a busy intersection.
Likewise, director Eryck Tait has sewn all of these scenes and monologues together with smooth transitions and simple blocking, letting the actors do all of the work. And it really all boils down to the actors in this show. A true ensemble play. All of them on the verge of leaving a safe environment (college) and plunging into the scary unknown of adulthood (real world). I cannot say enough about these young artists.