Mixed Tape 2007
nytheatre.com review by Michael Criscuolo
April 27, 2007
Another Urban Riff, the company that gave us the uproarious cult comedy Mono a few years ago, is back with another dose of their specialized brand of hipster humor, the short play anthology, Mixed Tape 2007. The four one-acts that make up the program focus on young, twentysomething New Yorkers trying to navigate the minefield of dating. Four different authors—Lauren Hatcher, Lisa Atenasio, Eden Foster, and Marge Lewit—each contribute a self-contained mini-play that carries over one character from the previous one. Despite the potential for thematic and tonal inconsistency, the vibrant Mixed Tape 2007 fluidly plays like the work of one writer, and shows the Urban Riffers to be just as loose, wryly funny, and in tune with their times as ever.
The plays are anonymously titled like selections on a mixed tape. Lauren Hatcher's "Track 1" is a raucous slice-of-life inside the apartment of three roommates: Addy, a basketball-dribbling would-be writer; Lillian, a tightly-wound neurotic who's just quit her job; and Kat, a laissez-faire party girl. Addy's trying to work, Lillian's trying to vent, and Kat is trying to get her party on. Her friend, Jasper, is on hand for gossiping and makeovers. They are soon joined by Jonas, a morally questionable hipster with designs on Addy. Before it's all over, there's a catfight, a lot of text messaging, and much talk of bedbugs.
Jonas re-appears in "Track 2" by Lisa Atenasio. We see him at home with his live-in girlfriend, Fiona, where they dispassionately watch reality TV. Pretty soon, she's shopping for sex toys sans boyfriend at an adult store called Babeland. The salesgirls, Macie and Cara, are roommates. Macie is battling massive depression while Cara serves as her cheerleader, trying to snap Macie out of it. But, Macie decides the best way to heal herself might be through the sins of the flesh, which she contemplates with both Jonas and Cara. Not a great idea, as it sends Cara looking for a new place to live.
In Eden Foster's "Track 3," Cara finds an apartment share with Drew, an emotionally disturbed compulsive masturbator. His brother, Greg, is a lothario always looking to score. He turns on the charm for both Cara and her friend, Sarah, who's looking to finally ditch her virginity.
Mixed Tape 2007 concludes with "Track 4" by Marge Lewit, in which virginal Sarah has now become a full-blown sex addict who has a weekly rendezvous with fellow addict, Nicholas. He frequents a local coffee joint where Peter, an aspiring writer, and Joanne, a tomboyish photographer, work. People always think Joanne is a boy, while Peter learns that his customer crush, Miss Thomas, is not only his next door neighbor, but Joanne's sister. There's more to Miss Thomas than just that, though. She runs Nicholas and Sarah's Sex Addicts Anonymous meeting, and she has a secret weekly master-and-servant rendezvous with—you guessed it—Jonas.
In lesser hands, this head-spinning cornucopia of activity would be enough to turn one off dating forever. But, the Urban Riffers turn Mixed Tape 2007 into a bounty of grungy East Village hilarity as they capture the MySpace generation in the crosshairs and fire at will. Hatcher, Atenasio, Foster, and Lewit all get in knowing, good-natured shots that will make viewers chuckle in recognition. In "Track 1," Lillian asks Addy what she's doing, only to get the following response: "I am having a séance for my dead heart." In "Track 2," Macie illustrates the "7 Signs That You're Depressed. Number One: You have to set the alarm for 2pm. And then you press the snooze button every nine minutes. For the next three hours." Halfway through "Track 3," Sarah notices Greg reading Aristotle and comments that "the fifth season of Buffy is a perfect Aristotelian tragedy." And, the struggle with one's own sexual identity is handled with astute levity in "Track 4."
Directors Foster, Lewit, Robyn Nielsen, and David Williams miraculously create a unified production where each play flows believably into the next. New York's outgoing, bar-hopping Bohemian culture is conjured convincingly by all four and their talented, freewheeling cast. Everyone here is spot-on and very funny. Some of my favorites included Tricia McAlpin's jittery Macie, Kerry Feehan as the bouncy Cara, Nick Paglino as the endearingly-in-denial Nicholas, and Lawrence Jansen's intentionally shallow turn as Jonas.
And, as befits a mixed tape, there's great music throughout. A steady onslaught of tunes from artists as varied as Gorillaz, B.B. King, Charles Mingus, and Arcade Fire delight the audience from beginning to end. You can even purchase the Mixed Tape 2007 soundtrack after the show (money well spent, in my opinion).
Mixed Tape 2007 ushers Another Urban Riff back into the spotlight with a giddy vengeance. Catch this boisterous production while you can, and hopefully they'll treat theatergoers to even more of the same again very soon.