nytheatre.com review by Michael Criscuolo
July 18, 2009
Talia Gonzalez and Bisanne Masoud's charming new play FaceSpace puts a surprising spin on the traditional romantic comedy formula. Anne and Simon know each other from the old hometown, but when they unexpectedly meet cute again in the big city, sparks fly. Only problem is he's a successful lawyer with his pick of any woman he wants and she's just a lowly barista. How can a lovestruck gal raise her stock against a city of ambitious successful career women?
Enter Tom, president of the social networking site FaceSpace, of which Anne and Simon are both members. Tom wants FaceSpace to become an integral part of its members' lives—so much so that when new users join he becomes a part of their lives. Literally. He suddenly materializes into members' lives like a devil on their shoulder giving them dubious advice—like telling Anne she should move in with Simon's ex-girlfriend, Bree, to get some inside information about her would-be beau.
Chaos naturally ensues and FaceSpace is off to the races, playfully examining how the social networking craze has made cyber-voyeurs of us all. "If others aren't examining your life, do you even exist at all?" Tom asks before pondering the existence of one's exotic vacation if there's no online photographic evidence. When we first meet Simon he's just updated his profile status to publicly state that he's moving to Seattle just so he can get out of having to break things off with his latest conquest. Later, a three-way texting session between Anne, Simon, and Bree punctuates the ludicrous hilarity of communicating with acronyms. The play eventually slides into conventional rom-com territory (satisfyingly so, I should say) but not before Gonzalez and Masoud make some witty observations about the cultural herd mentality nurtured by social networking sites.
Director Daniel Winerman mounts a fluid and funny production that tells a clear story and gives the actors lots of elbow room. Jon Levenson dominates as Tom, unpredictably assuming the personality of whichever FaceSpace user he's harassing and unleashing a torrent of potent one-liners. Ilana Becker gives a similar force-of-nature performance as Bree, who is impulsively aggressive and Type A. Lindsay Ryan and Mike Carlsen form the heart of FaceSpace as Anne and Simon, respectively, and ground the production with a touch of sincerity that provides a nice counterpoint to the scene stealing tandem of Levenson and Becker. Rounding out the cast are Sharon Freedman and Thomas F. Walsh who make strong impressions with their one-scene cameos.
In their program bios, the authors state that FaceSpace is their first play. To which I can only say that their writing endeavors are off to a promising start. Hopefully, we'll hear more from them in the future.