Around The Fringe In 20 Plays!
August 21, 2012
Written by: Max W. Friedlich
Directed by: Dann Fink
Venue: The Cherry Lane Theatre
Two things caught my immediate attention with the event that is SleepOver.
1. Writer, Max W. Friedlich, at seventeen years of age is the youngest writer involved in Fringe NYC 2012. (Read about it here)
2. Not only that, but he’s got quite the following. This is what I was met with when I approached the theatre for a Tuesday night show:(ok, I’m not sure if this pic does it justice, but the line went from the door, all the way down the street. It was bustling. The hype was UP.)
So, first thing’s first.
Get your tickets in advance.
The team is also a force to be reckoned with. Director, Dann Fink’s world premiere of The Hurricane Katrina Comedy Festival was a NY Times Critic’s Pick last year and not to mention, he’s a two time contender in the Fringe Encore Series. Stage manager, Katherine K. White, SM’d at the Lincoln Center for The Grand Manner as well as American Idiot on Broadway. Brandy Zarle, who played “Jasmine” has appeared Off-Broadway at Second Stage and The Connelly. Throw in Cindi Rush as casting consultant, and I’m looking forward to some pretty quality theatre.
And that is what I got.
This show takes the bullshit teenagers have to deal with and gives it all due respect. A first love, struggles at school, race, and family. These issues exist and are very real, but somehow, as we grow and “mature,” we believe we should strip them of their importance. Max W. Friedlich acknowledges these issues and gives them the voice and the weight they deserve.
“It’s me that’s going through it. This girl. This day. On this year. Inside of me.”
Often times, angst is silenced. As a teenager, I remember thinking that despite feeling like my problems bore the weight of the world, I didn’t deserve to have this opinion. After all, “this was all a part of growing up” and “everyone goes through it.” But so what? Just because teenage problems are repeat offenders doesn’t excuse the fact that somebody has been violated in the first place. Falling in love for the first time followed by the inevitable first big “stomp-on-my-heart-and-crush-it-into-the-ground/why-are-you-breaking-up-with-me?” episode is absolutely devastating. Matt (played by Brandon Reilly) pleads for his mom to “tell me what to do with this love.” Friedlich captures the enormity of these overwhelming emotions perfectly and is able to articulate that which we, as teenagers simply couldn’t. I know I couldn’t when it happened to me. When my 18 year old boyfriend responded to my question, “do you still even love me?” with the most defeaning silence the world has ever heard, I threw myself on my front lawn and didn’t come inside until I had as many grass stains as I did tear stains. Yeah. Real cute. Your first heartbreak is a defining moment. We should be thrown parties after they happen. There should be a huge celebration. A religious ceremony. School should be cancelled.
So when did they become so trite? So get over it? So “aw, poor baby.”
They are play-worthy.
Max W. Friedlich. Seventeen years old. I’m intrigued by this kid. His play is a double edged sword in a good way. On one hand, he has the language down and the accuracy of this teenage world because he currently exists in it. But he has also eerily accessed this birds eye view of his and his peers’ own existence. It’s like he’s already lived through his teenage years, grew up, and has now merely reincarnated back into a seventeen year old. He’s a teen, but has somehow already digested the teenage years and has been able to regurgitate them into this play and these thoughts. The awareness of emotion and feelings and “being immature,” shows maturity.
And then we have the complexity of the mother, Jasmine (Brandy Zarle). Not only does it seem like she has less of a handle on her insecurities than her teenage son has on his, but what she goes through at the end (no spoilers here so I won’t go into it!) – my reaction to it was this:
“I think the playwright created a new genre with this one.”
Let me explain. I had an experience with her portion of the story. To the point where I felt like it was the entire point of the play. I thought perhaps everything had been building up to this moment and this picture of her onstage. It was as though the rest of the play was just a trick to get us there. And when I got there, I wasn’t left with answers; only questions and a feeling, a mood, a tone … So this “genre” I felt that had been created was something along the lines of expressionism. The play wasn’t expressionistic, but it was like a map, a plot, a story, based in reality, that led to this moment. The moment was not informed by dialogue or text but elicited a visceral reaction.
And then there’s the juxtaposition of what’s going on with Matt against what’s really going on with Theo (played by Jared Kemp). This challenged my shift in thinking that I owed to the play’s first message (giving typical teenage problems their importance back). Is the play purposely contradicting itself? Is Matt really just a whiney emo kid? Am I supposed to dersert everything I thought I learned in the first hour and twenty minutes of this play? Oy vey! Basically, this play surprised me. It gives a lot of food for thought and has much more complexity than its face value lends you to believe.
I will shut up now. “I sound like a fucking teenager.”
Just go see it for yourself, already!
It will stir up a lot of questions, so get a drink after. Use your sister’s fake ID. Haha just kidding. That was a joke… I feel like I need to clarify that.
Keepin’ it real: not red,