nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
July 15, 2007
Outroverted is five shows wrapped into one. A different actor writes and performs each piece and each has its own director. Thematically the show is about folks that are outcasts, some by choice, others not by choice. It's like a small loaf of life cut up into entertaining and mostly digestible slices.
"Renaissance" is performed by Susan Rankus (also the show's producer). Rankus is reasonably funny and quite charming as a 19-year-old actor who lands a part in a Renaissance Fair and then falls for a 30-something Fair veteran. While I found her character entertaining, she plays the role a little too adolescent for the character's age and this makes the sexual innuendo seem out of place. Her director, Cheryl King, could have led her to a slightly more mature and edgy place to help with the innuendo and to contrast the cutesiness of her character.
The next piece, "Just Shut Up and Smile," is brilliant. Performed with quirky intensity and snarling sarcasm by Simona Berman, this vignette steals the show. It is itself broken into five segments with each one talking about society's expectations of female appearance and how women attempt to take control of their appearance. Berman's cynical view on this is apparent in the title of the show. I enjoyed the way her director, Diana Basmajian, starts her off at a fairly high level of intensity and then brings it down. Berman brings fire to every scene. She is hilarious, edgy, angry, and deliciously sarcastic.
The third piece, "Me and Stepin," is very well acted by Richie McCall. It is basically the story of the struggles of a black actor trying to overcome being cast in stereotypical black roles. He's even asked to do a Stepin Fetchit-type character. This evokes a dream or ghost of Stepin to speak to him. He realizes that Stepin opened doors for black actors, but what McCall doesn't point out is at what cost. McCall is without a doubt a fine actor, I truly enjoyed his performance, but his story lacks bite and originality.
"Holding Out," performed by Craig Durante, is the story of a young man's attempts to lose his virginity. Durante's character is a mundane wannabe rock star who comes to the very Zen conclusion that if he just stops thinking about it and let go he'll get laid. The trouble is, while the character finally lets go and goes Zen, the actor never really lets go and explodes. Durante holds back where I hoped he would hit the ceiling. Director Matt Hoverman might have pushed him to a little more orgasmic place so Durante could make that connection.
The final piece, "/out of character," is about a very funny and very real tech support guy who is obsessed with virtual domination of his gamer world. Performed flawlessly by Brian Bielawski this piece has the makings of a full length solo show. Bielawski is on point in this character but his story doesn't have much of a point other than entertainment. I wondered what he was trying to say with or about this character. Still, the piece is entertaining, much like an extended comedy sketch.
Put together the show makes for a decent night at the theatre. While most of the pieces have some room for improvement, I think summer festivals such as MITF are the perfect venue to work out the kinks.