nytheatre.com review by Steven Cherry
February 25, 2012
My mother was once in a bank of phone booths in the subway. The phone lines apparently got crossed and she could hear faint voices of another conversation. Suddenly, she heard one thing clearly: “...And he’s killing her like he killed me.”
Talk about a missed connection!
As a new play in the FRIGID Festival notes, Craigslist has institutionalized the notion of a missed connection, with a sublist of its personals ads called just that.
Here’s an example lifted from Craigslist New York, from the same day I saw the show: “Red Hair Guy On Hudson, Saturday Afternoon - m4m - 28 (West Village)—Hi, I was walking south on Hudson (around 12th Street) and you asked if I knew of a Starbucks nearby. I pointed to the glass building on 14th Street. You're hot. Let me know if you want to grab coffee sometime.” (“M4M” stands for man-for-man.)
The FRIGID Festival celebrates these missed connections with an eponymous show. As a celebration, Missed Connections works just fine. As an examination of them, and, arguably, as a piece of theatre, it does not.
The show, ably acted by Jennifer Jean Anderson, Ricky Dunlop, Jake McKenna, and Lauren Roth, consists entirely of readings of Craigslist postings. They’re carefully selected and grouped into categories. They’re read with verve and delicious accents (more on that in a minute). They're mostly funny and sometimes hilarious.
But what they don’t do is tell us anything further, either in fact or fiction. That’s not only a shame, it’s a bit strange. The charm of reading the missed connections on Craigslist is imagining the stories behind them. It’s not my role or intention to tell the cast—who also are listed in the program as the show’s creators—how to put together their play. So I can only say that I felt unsatisfied at the end of this 50-minute show.
It was, in some ways, even less satisfying than reading Craigslist. There, one can dwell on a listing and exercise one’s imagination. At the Kraine Theatre, they come fast and furious, one on top of another. To be sure, on stage, the listings are given voice, but even that was a minus as well as a plus. Some of the accents were wonderful, but a few, including McKenna’s Hispanic, slipped into stereotype. And even the best of them promised more than they delivered: By hinting at a back story, they teased and, by not going any further, disappointed.
My family has spent years imagining the back story of “And he’s killing her like he killed me.” Had Missed Connections dwelt on a handful of listings, either tying them together or as separate vignettes—had it, in other words, lived up to its own subtitle (“an exploration into the online postings of desperate romantics”)—it would have better connected with its audience, and with its creators’ obvious creativity.