On The Night of Anthony's 30th Birthday Party, Again
nytheatre.com review by Travis Richards
March 14, 2009
It's always difficult to explain why a play does not work. There are myriad things that could conceivably lead to an unfulfilling experience. The actors could be out of sync, the lighting could make it so you can't see the actors, the direction too heavy handed, the writing too long-winded, or even something that has nothing to do with the production at all like the guy sitting next you smelling. Really with all of the variables it's amazing that any production is ever successful.
Whirled Peas' production of On the Night of Anthony's 30th Birthday Party...Again does not work. While it has moments where it connects very well, these moments are vastly out-numbered by its shortfalls. The main plot of the play revolves around the character Ben and his conflict over a choice between his fiancée and an old friend.
Ben is attending his friend Anthony's birthday party. Ben attends the party with his fiancée. Also at the party is Ben's old friend who has unspoken feelings towards Ben. As it turns out Ben also has feelings for the old friend and their feelings for one another manifest at the party. As the night progresses the flirtation between Ben and the old friend grows to the point of making out in the back bedroom. Eventually the fiancée finds out about the flirtations between Ben and his old friend and Ben is forced to make a choice.
The main problem with the play is that no sympathy is solidly created for any of the characters, and each is very much one-dimensional. As a consequence, no drama is born and a sense of apathy ensues. By the end of the play I could care less who Ben chooses, because ultimately Ben's character is shallow and not likeable.
The direction of the play by Megan Demarest seems too heavy-handed. In her defense this play has a lot of physical comedy and fairly intricate staging of the members of the cast. There are moments when everything does click. The last scene of the first act is fast moving, involving all the members of the cast. This scene is by far is the best of the play because it flows naturally and has so much happening that it demands the audience's attention. In stark contrast, the second act begins with a marathon monologue by the character Anthony. While I do not know the exact length of the speech, it feels just a tad short of eternity.The slapstick humor that has the entire audience laughing in the first act, completely fizzles into points of utter impotency in the second act.
While gaps in storytelling and character development contribute to plays shortcomings, ultimately I think the entire production, short of the lighting and stage design, is to blame. I'd blame the guy that I was sitting next to as well, but I'd be lying. I sat next to a very attractive girl who actually smelled very good.