Galaxy Video 2
nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
September 13, 2005
Marc Morales's Galaxy Video 2 is everything that a successful sequel should be. It brings back all the eccentric characters from its source—Galaxy Video—and gives them all the quirks and foibles that we loved about them in the first place. But it's stocked with all-new situations and conflicts (okay, some of the conflicts are replays of, or reactions to, events in the original); and it's got a potent new villain ominously called "The Man." Most importantly, it stands on its own, so that if you don't know Galaxy Video, you'll still totally follow the show, and enjoy it.
It is, in short, as smart and hilarious as the first installment, yet fresh and original.
Okay, so here's the set-up, just in case you missed Galaxy Video (shame on you!) during its two New York runs (or, in published form, in NYTE's Plays and Playwrights 2003). Galaxy Video is the largest video store in the universe; so big that people often claim they can't find their way out; so big that the number of movies and aisles containing them appears to approach infinity. In the first play, we met a ragtag group of misfit employees and customers trying to cope with a typical day in the shop. Jerry was the earnest new employee, striving to do his best. Russell, his revered co-worker, was the jaded senior employee, brooding about the end of his relationship with his girlfriend Shelby, and his betrayal at the hands of former co-worker Barnaby Franklin, who stole one of Russell's story ideas and sold it to the movies. Three other employees included Shelly, who suffers from narcolepsy; A.E. (or Angry Employee), who quit "to herself" after just a few hours and went back to her restful pastimes of yoga and drawing stick-figure people; and Simon, who was (and is) just plain odd. The customers included Manny, who always wears a winter coat and thinks that Fred Berry (Rerun from TV's What's Happening) is the greatest star of them all; Marissa, a knockout from the Bronx with attitude, a cell phone, and a penchant for forgetting the names of movies and actors in the movies that she wants to rent; Erick, her boyfriend; and Jason, Jamie Lee, and Michael, three kids who love horror flicks.
They're all back for Galaxy Video 2. The store is now part of a huge chain of Galaxy Videos, a la Blockbuster, all owned by a mysterious personage known as "The Man." Jerry is now the senior employee (Russell quit); he's struggling, rather comically, with his sexual identity. Simon's still his oblivious self, and Shelly is still collapsing on the floor without notice due to her condition. She's also now Erick's girlfriend, his relationship with Marissa having ended in Galaxy Video; they seem to make a nice couple. But Marissa is back, for the store's grand re-opening, and she wants Erick back—and she doesn't care what she has to do to get him.
Manny, who worshipped the store employees in the first play, now has his wish—he works in the store himself. (Talk about hog heaven!) He's acquired a love interest, too: a sweet nerdy girl named Sandy who works at the nearby Starbucks, who sets off a crisis of the heart for Manny when she invites him to have "bagels for breakfast."
Jason, Jamie Lee, and Michael are back, now shooting their own film in the cavernous depths of the store. So are Barnaby Franklin, Russell (now a civilian, just looking for a copy of Fame), and Beth, a harassed customer whom Simon loves to torment by sending her to the wrong aisle.
And oh yes—A.E. is back. In a prologue, we hear her lash out at and then shoot her therapist. Soon she arrives at Galaxy Video holding a DVD box that she says contains a bomb. She's also got a gun. She says that God has instructed her to blow the place up.
Possibly even more nefariously, Simon has been put on special assignment by "The Man"—to remove certain titles from the shelves and bring them to the "secret aisle."
Oh, and one more thing: it appears that Barnaby Franklin has sold his soul to the devil.
Playwright-director Morales deftly shakes and stirs up these various ingredients and concocts a sharp, hilarious stew of a comedy. Some of the jokes and gags are brilliantly laugh-out-loud funny (like the moment when Jason, filming—Michael Moore-style—A.E.'s planned terrorist act, orders a dolly shot). And the themes addressed, though always with humor, are smart and important: stuff like institutionalized racism and the heavy pall of censorship now hanging over our country's culture.
As he did in Galaxy Video, Morales employs a pair of masked ninja characters who serve as stagehands and supernumeraries, shifting Bradd Baskin's ingenious setting this way and that to create new nooks and crannies in which the play's numerous scenes play out. Transitions are all choreographed to a slew of apropos pop/rock/rap selections; the show passes lightning-fast. The cast is engagingly committed and over-the-top: standouts include Johanna H. Clay, back on hand as Manny; Lucas Wotkowski as Michael, who quits Jason's film early in the play and winds up planning a Vegas act of film and TV impressions with Jerry; Melanie Angelina Maras, on-target as tough-but-sexy Marissa; Clay Drinko, hilarious as the whiny but egotistical budding auteur Jason; Alexandra Lemosle, adorable as the geeky Sandy; and Deondra Lyonne, who is daffily fearless as Jamie Lee.
Morales hasn't quite figured out how to end this play: after an elegantly choreographed climactic chase scene, it wasn't clear to me whether the store was supposed to have blown to smithereens or the whole story was just Jerry's bad dream. But apart from this—which will presumably be clarified—Galaxy Video 2 is a delightful and terrific successor to Morales's worthy original. There might even be more Galaxy Video tales to tell—who knows: maybe there's a TV series here, just waiting to be coaxed out.