Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Submission

Posted Mondschein

The Submission, presented by MCC Theatre at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, September 11, 2011

Writing a play is a daunting task.  Getting a new play produced takes "daunting" to exponential levels.

Danny (Jonathan Groff) has been writing for a couple of years, trying to get established on the new play festival circuit.  In a unexplained fit of inspiration, he writes a fresh, powerful and highly provocative tale of a young African-American trying to escape from the life his family has led for generations.  He shows it first to his best friend Trevor (Will Rogers), an aspiring actor, who gives him the first inclination that he's written something very special.  Danny finally shows it to his boyfriend Pete (Eddie Kaye-Thomas), who echoes the praise.

Danny, however, has already made submissions to several new play festivals and has just been accepted by the renowned Humana Festival.  All sounds good, looks positive - except for one thing: Danny has submitted under a name that suggests a woman of recent African-American extract.  He justifies the action on the rationale that no festival committee would take him seriously as the author of such a play.  With the pseudonym, the subject matter doesn't conflict with its source, and it seems to have worked.

That is, until he realizes the playwright is part of the staging process at Humana.  He hires Emilie (Rutina Welsey) an aspiring actress to play his playwright and channel information to and from him as the production comes to life.

Playwright Jeff Talbot has taken this Cyrano concept and given it enough twist to make it work.  Along the way, he starts a really interesting dialogue on the comparison of discrimination among two disparate groups, gays and blacks.  His characters of Danny and Emilie are better drawn than the supporting roles of Pete and Trevor, and interestingly, none of them are thoroughly likeable.  Each presents a bristle or mean streak at one point or another.  He has a tendency to beat a dead horse, as Emilie and Danny repeat the same argument at least three times.  The first time is riveting, the last - deafening.

Mr. Groff is effective as the young man getting a little long in the tooth to be so callow.  His Danny rationalizes and justifies each miscalculation as immature young adults do.  Ms. Wesley matches him well as Emilie evolves from playing the role of the playwright to developing a real affection and feeling of ownership of Danny's script.  Messrs. Rogers and Thomas support well.

David Zinn's set functions well, serving the multiple locations and is suitably complemented by David Weiner's interesting lighting.

Director Walter Bobbie gets caught up in the argument scenes where a bit of trimming would have better served the play, but otherwise keeps things moving well.

The Submission runs through October 22.

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