nytheatre.com review by Ryan Emmons
August 10, 2008
"Squirrels put on plays." This is from the first sentence of director/writer Patrick Flynn's director's note in the program. Below his director's note is the author's note, another well-deserved laugh. The joyful and farcical tone of Untitled Masterpiece is made clear before the play even starts with its witty program. Reading character names like "Dyed-in-the-Wool Conservative White Female" and "Native American Anarchist Lesbian" not to mention "Feminist-Slut" lets your imagination fly as to what you are about to witness on stage. Untitled Masterpiece is a funny, heartfelt, and poignant bit of silliness.
Everyman Joseph K Meursault (sensitively and skillfully played by Neil Casey) has just graduated college and the ups and downs of life are laid out before him like a nightmare. The play begins with everybody congratulating Joseph on his graduation—and then handing him bills and ripping off his college gown and kicking him out into the "real world" holding only a scroll of paper. Joseph quickly finds that nobody really cares that he graduated as a communications major from a liberal arts college and he spends the rest of the play fumbling his way through the issues of getting a job, odd roommates, office romance, and the fast pace of life.
Almost everyone in the cast plays multiple characters to show the wide range of interactions that happen just out of college. Mike Gregorek is superb at switching from one character to the next; he has created two distinct and believable characters (Roommate and Type A Male Co-Worker). There are, however, two characters that are consistent, our leading male and Mary (an "extra") played by Gina Poletti. Mary becomes the love interest of Joseph K Meursault but she explains to him that she is not allowed to talk because she's just an extra. Untitled Masterpiece delves into the question of what it is to be a leading character versus an extra in one's own life and what it means to finally take control and realize, in a sense, that you have to be your own writer/director/casting agent.
Flynn's direction is crisp, funny, and poignant. The one criticism I do have is that, in a world created as this fast-paced, TV-driven, energy-pumped place, the more laid back, quiet and careful scene changes stop the drive of the play and create gaps in an otherwise seamless world. This being said, the scenes that are created on stage and the characters that come to life are both believable and ridiculous, no easy task.
In a society where it seems that everyone has 2000 channels on their television screen, it is appropriate to me that Untitled Masterpiece uses television and media to frame a graduate's first steps out into the "real world." It takes a few appearances before Joseph K Meursault feels like a regular in his own life, but once he does, it becomes time to decide if he is even in the right show.