For Reasons Unknown
nytheatre.com review by Nathaniel Kressen
August 14, 2008
For Reasons Unknown wins its audience's rapt attention from the moment they enter the Barrow Street Theater. We see an impeccably clean apartment, an isolated light falling on a white couch, and there in the center: a "big poo." The first laugh comes less than five seconds into the first act when our protagonist Bradley comes home and shrieks in surprise. He checks for some sign of who, or what, has done this—but at last, defeated, looks back at the pile to decide his next move.
Now, a simpler play would expand upon this premise for all it was worth, and its first laugh might prove to be the biggest. However Jeff Long and Andi Teran—co-authors and co-lead actors—and director Nathan Halvorson deliver a much more rewarding comedy.
Bradley (played by Long) is soon joined by his best friend Julie (Teran). She comes to chastise him for missing their weekly hip-hop dance class, but upon seeing the pile—yes, still sitting there—decides they should call the police. While they await the cops' arrival, Julie explains in detail the number of hardships she was forced to endure that morning as a result of Bradley's absence. Their argument erupts into one of the most hilarious dance-offs I have ever seen onstage, choreographed by Brent Smith.
These two are soon joined by two foppish cops (William Franke and Jessica Kaman), an eerily easy-going neighbor (Matt Mullin), and a maniac landlord (Travis York). The ensemble cast is highly capable and deliver some of the best comedic moments in the show. Especially noteworthy is York's monologue obsessing over the city's increasing pigeon population, which opens the second act. He executes each phrase with perfect comic timing, and even after nearly five minutes we are left wanting more.
The show, however, belongs to Teran and Long. They endow their characters with such enthusiasm and vigor that one could imagine them riffing off one another and never missing a beat. Teran's alter-ego resembles any number of Saturday Night Live alumni (a combination of Molly Shannon and Tina Fey comes to mind). Julie is at once focused yet clumsy, determined to solve the case but constantly setting the group back two paces. In a role crafted to display her strengths as a comedic performer, Teran absolutely shines.Through much of the show, I was not a fan of Long's character. Bradley whines, he condescends, he demands things of others. However by the end of the evening, after the character experiences a moment of epiphany, these flaws illuminate the true intention behind the play. Bradley has always had his way, and this has left him forever sour and discontent. Now, literally, his life has been shat on. After he has finished feeling wronged, he is left with the simple, unchangeable fact that someone thought he deserved this. And he realizes, perhaps he did. In a clever ending, a real problem falls into Bradley's lap, however now instead of railing against the world he simply smiles and accepts it. The production's memorable tagline is "What happens when shit happens?" The answer, if we take the cue from Bradley is: You deal with it, and move forward.