The Fake History of George the Last
nytheatre.com review by Julie Congress
January 21, 2010
You are sitting in the theatre. You are reading the Playwright's Note in your program. This is what you read:
You are about to take a trip to the future, where everything is different.
Everything, that is, except for human experience.
Your companion turns to you and asks if you think there was a formatting error in the note or if all of the *^<>]]$! are intentional. You think they probably are.
Misha Schulman's The Fake History of George the Last is a futuristic tale about inevitability and man's innate disposition towards violence. While the tone of the play is inconsistent it is nonetheless a quirky, interesting play.
George the Last takes place in the distant future. It is George's 16th birthday. In keeping with the family tradition, Jane and George Senior, George's parents, show him the DVD of George Senior's 16th birthday. Because, in this family of Georges, the 16th birthday is when a George discovers he is not his father's son, but his father's clone. Despite his protests, he will soon develop a severe (and ridiculous) stomach ache, marry a Jane, and clone a George of his own. Later in life he will become a grandfather, loose his ability to speak, and commit murder. Thus is the life of a George, and there is no use fighting it, despite how much a George may want to at various moments of his life. Each George is also equipped with a Bluetooth-like device, which will detect the last (i.e., final) George.
Schulman is a very funny writer. From this current Playwright's Note to last year's hysterical Dada play Brunch at the Luthers, he is clearly a very quirky, funny guy. But somehow, at least at the performance I saw, the humor didn't translate. And I suspect this is supposed to be a funny play. You don't name your characters after The Jetsons if you are not looking for a laugh. But unevenness in style and tone works against the humor, leaving the audience unsure how to react.
Jared Mezzocchi's innovative video design of living photographs and Czerton Lim's streamlined, trendy set design give a futuristic feeling to the production, yet it doesn't feel as futuristic as it's supposed to be, particularly with Justine Lacy's very 1950s-infused costumes. The choices did not seem different enough for the 32nd Century.
The cast, under Meghan Finn's direction, works very well together. Priscilla Flores is instantly fun and likeable as Grandpa George, with a big gray wig and big gray mustache. Sarah Painter and Erika Helen Smith, as the older and younger Jane, respectively, match each other's mannerisms and intonations precisely and bring a cartoonish energy to the production. Mezzocchi, as George Jr., is very natural and clearly works very hard at his part (or parts? It is deliberately difficult to keep track of the generations, but he plays at least three young Georges). And Ben Jaeger-Thomas, as George Senior, shows a lot of range, going from infomercial sleazy to quite genuine in the course of just a few generations.
"What has been will be again / What has been done will be done again / There is nothing new under the sun" (Ecclesiastes, 1:9). The play draws text from the Book of Ecclesiastes, (particularly during the short, electronic songs that play during the scene changes).
The Fake History of George the Last presents a world in which who you are, your identity, is treated as a disease. Let's hope that's not what the year ^iIi*z is really like.