FringeNYC Festival Review
David Fuller · August 13, 2011
The Apartment: A Play with Four Sides is an hour well spent this Fringe summer. Four playwrights have joined to give us four funny and poignant takes on what it means to live in New York City post-9/11, by centering on one lone studio apartment in the Lower East Side. Spanning several years, four pairs of subletters come and go, living, loving and, yes, making us think a bit about what it means to live in our 21st century Gotham.
“The Blackout” features Christina Broccolini as Sarah and Chris Davis as Tim, a couple who have just connected the night before and apparently had an excellent night of drunken consensual sex. Today is not only a day of hangovers and incipient romance, but it is also August 14, 2003, the day of the last massive blackout in NYC history. Through the course of this one act, Sarah, who owns the lease on the apartment, and Chris, who has stayed the night and who is looking for a new place to stay, make a connection that may or may not survive the test of time but is clearly the beginning of something between them. Maybe it’s the lack of external power, but something “empowers” them to get beyond what would normally be a superficial post-coital day after. Ultimately, the apartment is the catalyst for Sarah finally getting out of the city she doesn’t really like—she sublets the place to Chris, who adores New York in all its fun and foibles. As Sarah moves to Portland, we know something might be brewing between them, and we have had a few laughs and even been made to think a bit about what we love or not about this incredible NYC.
The second play, “Lost and Found,” brings Peter, played by Christopher Johnstone, and Kristina, played by Mara Lalli, together as new live-ins in the apartment, which they have sublet from Chris. The time is now August 2005, during that horrible season of hurricanes. This is the first time Peter and Kristina have lived together, but although they have little in common except for an abiding love, they have decided to try to give it a go. Here, the apartment is an incubator for their relationship. We watch them fight, make up, fight again, and finally make peace, while some severe weather rages outside.
Next, in “The FOB’s,” the time is August 2010, and in come Nahid and Matt played by Shannon Amiry and Victor J. Wisehart, who are in a hurry to sublet the place from Chris and who have some interesting secrets which will not be revealed here. Suffice it to say that there are American/Iranian undertones that underscore the necessity for the apartment to now serve as a refuge for its newest inhabitants.
Lastly, “The Cleaners,” is set in the present. The apartment has undergone a tragic transformation, where recent events involving alleged national security have caused the final couple, Rita and Jerry (Sara Nina Hayon and Vayu O’Donnell) to enter the place in a certain professional capacity which also will not be revealed here. Through some rather dark humor, these two make a rapprochement that had been years in the making (they knew each other as children). The apartment is now a vessel where Rita and Jerry find each other.
The playwrights, Sorrel (Tomlinson) Barnard, Melissa (Picarello) Moran, Lindsay Joy Murphy and David Scott, have crafted believable, likeable characters in interesting situations. (I would credit specific writers to specific plays, but could find no specific credits in the material given.) Director Adam Blanshay has cast the play well. All eight actors give honest and engaging performances that make us want to root for them. And Blanshay has staged the play intelligently with a seeming effortlessness that is so important to modern realism. The lights by Adam Blumenthal, sound design by Bobby McElver, and sets/costumes by Jeffrey Potter-Watts all work well together within the exigencies of FringeNYC constraints.
All in all, the four plays dovetail together in an entertaining way that makes for a fun time. If you get to see this as part of your FringeNYC experience, you will smile often, laugh a lot, and come away feeling rather positive about life in this great City.