‘Quiet Enjoyment’ is a Simple Pleasure

QUIET ENJOYMENT by Richard Curtis - L to R Samantha Mercado Tudda (MERRY), Mario Claudio (BIMSKY) _ Megan Simard (KARMA), Photo by Mozinya Productions

Left to right: Samantha Mercado Tudda, Mario Claudio, Megan Simard

Reviewed by Kenneth Laboy

‘Quiet Enjoyment’ is an apt title for this comedy by Richard Curtis. Directed by Marcus Gualberto, the play centers on a fastidious co-op closing where everything that can go wrong, does.

Staged in the Playroom Theater, the small space is used eloquently with a large table being the centerpiece and quiet corners for the asides. There isn’t much space, but Gualberto doesn’t let the cramped stage get in the way of maintaining energy and movement required for the play. Even with as many as eight actors on stage, it never feels cluttered. And the players always have space to play.

His actors do a great job with Curtis’ snappy dialogue, and squeeze as much comedy from every moment as they can. The best thing about their performances? They are having fun up in that stage! They are enjoying every second, and it is always a joy to see actors engaged in their performances with such zeal.

The play text itself is dense with comedy – smart word play, incisive character choices, sort of, a farce without doors. And yet, for much of the running time I smiled more than I chuckled. It was constantly pleasant, but the enjoyment was somehow subdued. The culprit for this might be the running time. The production is slightly over 90 minutes. And while movement is constant on stage, the dialogue itself could be more tightly paced.

Conversations here had a realness to them that lacked the urgency demanded by the farce.

Quiet Enjoyment plays now through Sunday, September 22nd in The Playroom Theatre (418 East 46th Street, NYC)

Tickets can be bought at http://QuietEnjoyment.BrownPaperTickets.com for $25

‘Hope Hypothesis’ Asks a Question it does not Answer

Voyage Theater Company presents The Hope Hypothesis

Left to right: Mary E. Hodges, Soraya Broukhim, Greg Brostrom, and William Ragsdale

Reviewed by Audrey Weinbrecht

After a young law student named Amena’s trip to the DMV to finalize her immigration papers leads to her being held by the FBI under a ludicrous accusations of terrorism, she finds herself trapped in the break room with a DMV employee. Fresh out of rehab, he shares with her his unique theory about the world: “When a person loses hope they either destroy themselves or they destroy others.” This is the “hope hypothesis” from which the show gets its name and presumably is the main theme of the piece.

“So what’s the solution?” Amena asks but the conversation is interrupted by the entry of another character. The show does not provide an answer to this question, which leaves the story without a resolution. If anything, by not providing a solution to this problem, the show suggests that there is none which fits with the rather bleak ending. Despite the laughs, the story touches on a very real fear for many Americans. The cultural relevance is what gives the satire its bite. Amena’s situation is depicted as ridiculous but plausible. There is perhaps no more damning indictment of this country’s stance on immigration than to laugh at it.

But the show’s ending gives the impression of echoing a conversation without adding anything new to the discourse. A dark ending could have worked if it had tied up more narrative threads. Not learning what happened to any of the main characters makes the arc of the story feel cut off, not resolved. The reason the ending is so frustrating is that the majority of the show is excellent. It takes a clever, incisive wit to make scenes about waiting in line at the DMV and being interrogated by the FBI entertaining and hilarious. The dialogue is sharp and witty. The cast tears through the script with gusto and plays off each other with impeccable comedic timing.

Each character is introduced as a seemingly average person, then becomes increasingly neurotic as the plot races from one absurd scenario to another. Some standouts: Wesley Zurick as the peppy teller with Machiavellian ambitions, Charlie O’Rourke as Amena’s histrionic boyfriend, and Greg Brostrom as a buffoonish FBI agent. As the plot escalates, only Amena remains the same, grounding the story. Soraya Broukhim makes Amena the sympathetic, intelligent, accessible protagonist she needs to be. An ordinary, capable young American trapped by increasing layers of bureaucratic farce.

She ends up completely undone by it, but perhaps there was another ending that could have been imagined for her.

The Voyage Theater Company’s production of The Hope Hypothesis runs through Sunday, November 15th at the Sheen Center for Thought and Culture (18 Bleecker Street).

Tickets can be purchased at https://www.sheencenter.org/shows/hope/2019-10-25/

The Sirens of Weeki Wachee Called out in Tira Palmquist’s Worth of Water… But it Was Not Music I Heard.

worth of water


Reviewed by Anthony Arcidi

Elle Masters, played by Clare Latham, opens The Worth of Water with a failed performance due to her inability to sing in public.  It’s an apt metaphor for her brewing emotional crisis as a woman seeking artistic acceptance and financial independence, wondering if the effort is worthwhile to express herself and pondering what her life will become.  There is no better backdrop to ponder this than her mother Ethel, confidently played by Emmy nominee Kim Crow, inviting Elle and her sister Rebecca, a strict conservative from Minnesota, played by Christianna Greiert, to Weeki Wachee mermaid resort in Florida to celebrate her 70th birthday.  Rules are established about sexual flirting and socializing but they are quickly broken as Ethel embarrassingly pursues the attention of the resort’s male staff. Rebecca and Elle watch in amusement and vow never to turn out like mom, discussing how they have turned out in love and career. Rebecca’s criticism seems misplaced, however, as she learns her husband is leaving her for a younger woman.  Her self-righteousness seemed so hypocritical that a meltdown seemed inevitable. Don’t throw stones if you live in a glass house.

Despite the high caliber of actors I found the presentation lacking, either in the static dialogues that that seemed to go on and on, to failing to capture  the color, kitsch, and vitality of Weeki Wachee in the set design. At one point the audience watches cardboard puppets dangling in lit aquariums to represent the celebrating trio, but the stage is ironically empty of any supporting action or imagery, a bizarre juxtaposition.  Most disappointing is Elle’s discovery of her voice again, falling short in only singing a single extended note rather than any song or ballad to capture her resurfacing confidence, s bit of a letdown. The payoff in The Worth of Water left more to.be desired than the effort required.

the Worth of Water plays a limited Engagement at HERE Arts Center from October 4;to 20, 2019