Max Rhyser, Jacob Perkins, Nik Kourtis, and Aimee Howard in THE AUSTERITY OF HOPE.
Full disclosure: both Dan Fingerman and Dan Dinero contribute to Theasy.
BOTTOM LINE: A moving, realistic ensemble play about the struggles of being gay and on the backside of young in New York.
Set from summer 2008 to spring 2009, The Austerity of Hope follows a predominately gay and entirely disappointed group of friends in Astoria from Obama’s presidential campaign to just after the Oscars. It is a story of broken relationships, tested friendships, life choices, and growing up. And it is the story of a time and a place not too far from the theatre where it plays.
Written by Dan Fingerman, The Austerity of Hope is a clever, unexpected script that takes the audience through the emotional gamut from laughter to melancholy. The people and problems are highly recognizable to the Fresh Fruit audience, and I found the material personally very affecting. I especially appreciated the subtle distinction of the dissatisfaction of the Southern transplant gay played by Jacob Perkins. The catty gossiping and snideness within the group had me wondering if the play should be called, “What do you do when your friends are terrible?” but at the end of the day it is clear that these people care about one another.
With Dan Dinero’s clean, savvy staging, the relationships and performances are able to resound. The Austerity of Hope features an endearing and diverse cast of characters played by charming actors. Leading the cast, Max Rhyser gives a powerful, honest performance as Simon Greene, the unlikeable but sexy cynic. His character experiences the most change. Aimee Howard also turns in an exceptional performance as the obligatory lady friend with a hint of Mary Louise Parker quirkiness. And Nik Kourtis infuses his role with natural charm and humor.
My one piece of advice: sit close to the front. Not all seats are raked at a steep enough angle, and it’s sometimes hard to see over the rows in front of you. At least, it was for my five feet, eight inches.
The Austerity of Hope is a genuine, moving script performed by an enthusiastic cast. When I saw the show, they had a full house and the whole audience was deeply invested. It would be easy to say that the target audience is 18-35 and gay-friendly, but the older people and the straight people seemed to be enjoying the productions as much if not more. This is a show to see.
(The Austerity of Hope plays at The Barrow Group Theatre, 312 West 36th Street, 3rd Floor, between 8th and 9th Avenues. Remaining performances are Tuesday, July 19th at 8:45 PM, Thursday, July 21st at 9 PM, and Saturday, July 23rd at 3:30 PM. Tickets are $18 and can be purchased at SmartTix.com or by calling 212-868-4444. For more information visit www.FreshFruitFestival.com.)