Triumph of the Underdog
nytheatre.com review by Mark DeFrancis
August 9, 2008
Triumph of the Underdog is the only FringeNYC show that I know of where you get to save the world. Sure, a show might persuade you to love your neighbor or reduce your impact on the environment, but Mitch Montgomery's one-man show uses a clever combination of science and fiction to save the world from a different kind of global warming: The sun is going to explode and only a washed up sci-fi writer and his audience can save us all.
The piece is set at Pace University [Note: The venue where it's presented is at Pace], where Montgomery's alter-ego Peter Howard is presenting his lecture on science fiction. Here we see Howard set forth the noble quest of science fiction, as well as the quirky characters who toe the line between the fact and fiction of the cosmos. Howard is at a bit of a rough spot in his career, having been released from his teaching gig at NYU, and this lecture quickly devolves into a tale of Howard's woes. However, the underdog professor, whose novels no one wants to read and whose theories no one wants to believe, turns hero when his ridiculous sci-fi scenario comes true.
Triumph starts off a little slow and it takes some time for the audience to catch up to Montgomery's quirky humor. However, once the doomsday scenario kicks into gear, the show becomes an exciting event that constantly forces the audience to ponder their place in the show. We receive word over the "radio" that the sun is going to blow and we know it's just theatre, but it does leave you asking what you'd do if you were watching a show and you heard the world was doomed. When and how much do we trust our performers? It also raises the point of how theatre isolates us from the world outside. This is the triumph of Underdog. It plays with the fourth wall in a way that is worth the trip.
Mitch Montgomery is a never-ending source of energy and life. His manic character is filled with enough sarcasm and sci-fi references to fill the space and carry the drama. He is on his game throughout and interacts well with his doomed audience. Ultimately, the fate of both the world and your evening depend on this man, and he comes through in both cases.