Wednesday, May 28, 2014

29x/y - A New Play By Marcus Yi

Having seen The Procedure, we were eager to see Marcus Yi's latest play. If you're in NYC this coming weekend and have an appetite for raw, experimental, youthful, casual and fun theater, your last chance to see his 29x/y will be Saturday at 11AM or Sunday at 1:30PM.

From the author's website: "29x/y is a collage theater piece. 29 segments written in 29 days in the 29th year of the playwrights life, this is a play that fuses monologues, songs, dance and experiments in theatrical statements. Confessional monologues from a bathhouse, fag hag haters, dysfunctional ex-lovers, dancing Republicans, eccentric want-ads and Super Mario fetishists all make an appearance to help you understand the meaning of 29x/y."

I'm glad I went, but I remain convinced that what Yi needs is a good editor because the contents of both plays range from the very good to the very bad. For instance, in 29x/y, there is a slide show on a side wall of the theater going on during the play. It adds nothing to what happens on stage. After the play, I learned that in an earlier production elsewhere, those slides were an integral part of the set, forming the background to the action. The logistics of this performance space did not permit that, so Yi chose to have someone sitting in the front row working a slide projector aimed at one side of the audience space. No. (If you go, try to ignore the slides and the awful light from the projector.)

Surprisingly funny—because as a gimmick it could have been both annoying and flat— were two scenes in which the characters repeat only one word or phrase, such as "whatever," throughout the bit. I'd gladly watch those scenes again.

29x/y contains a whole slew of really good young actors who perfectly inhabit Yi's material. They seem very much at home in his head where they frequently and smoothly rearrange the furniture and the action giving us a well-paced composite that is engaging and humorous.

Two performers stand out. Caroline Mahoney elevates a bit about hamsters with adroit and polished delivery adding savory ingredients to the material.

Monique Sanchez has that rare and indefinable kind of stage presence that doesn't allow you to take your eyes off her.  Her delivery is instinctive. While others have to tell their face or limbs what to do on stage, she seems to simply flip a switch at each entrance and suddenly the lighting and the action around her seem brighter. Watching her, I kept thinking of Julie Halston or Christine Baranski. I hope she has a long and wonderful performing career.

29x/y is a "Hey, it is what it is" kind of play. Marcus Yi continues to pursue his colorful route as a playwright like someone blindfolded and rowing a boat under the Bow Bridge in Central Park. He'll take us on a lively ride, bumping into things that almost capsize us. A good editor/advisor would make for a smoother excursion, but we don't say no to the possibility of future outings.

Paradise Factory, at 64th E. 4th St New York NY 10003.