nytheatre.com review by Mary Notari
August 19, 2013
A scene from PEP TALK
How to enjoy PEP TALK:
Step 1: Ignore the show’s description in the FringeNYC program.
Step 2: Go see it.
The average American has no idea who former Futbol Club Barcelona player and coach Josep “Pep” Guardiola is. Even less likely to know this soccer star, Renaissance man, and hero of Catalonia (the autonomous region of Spain that contains Barcelona) is the average FringeNYC Festival goer. That is a damn shame.
The show is immanently accessible. Soccer is theater – a long-form structured improv to be precise – with heroes and villains, alliances and betrayals, dreams and disappointment. Pep Garcia-Pascual as the titular Pep Guardiola, embodies this idea. Did you know the real world Pep Guardiola got a lot of flack for going to open-mic nights to recite his poetry while he was a player? Google “Pep Guardiola poetry” and click on the first link. Do it. I’ll wait.
Did you see the video of him performing a musical interpretation of a classic Catalán poem? Yeah. That’s a professional sports team coach.
The show isn’t without its flaws. To be honest, I wish there was a little more of that guy in the video in Garcia-Pascual who, in fairness, keeps the energy high in a room that, at the start, has no idea what he’s talking about. PEP TALK takes the audience’s relative ignorance into account from moment one, slightly to its detriment – our Pep actually quotes his own Wikipedia page as a way of introduction. It also inexplicably starts on the premise that, for some reason, Guardiola has decided to give a lecture applying his coaching style to business practices. Luckily, the conceit doesn’t last for long.
Pep finally lands when he just starts talking to the audience as we are: a bunch of theater nerds. Only then is the audience allowed to put together the pieces of why they should care about soccer and, more specifically, the story of this man and this team.
It’s funny, it’s informative, and sometimes, it’s a little hard to understand over the accent. Ultimately, PEP TALK lives up to its title and will make you want to run out into the streets and win whatever the equivalent of the European Cup is in your life.