By Alex Trow; Directed by Jillian Robertson
Produced by Sanguine Theatre Company
Off Off Broadway, New Play
Runs through 9.14.14
IRT Theater, 154 Christopher Street, #3B
by Maya Phillips on 9.8.14
Alex Trow in Flamingo. Photo by Charlie Winter.
BOTTOM LINE: This is a smart, funny look at relationships, sexuality and gender through the story of a cautious, conservative and lovelorn grad student and the relationship that forever changed her.
Flamingo may seem like nothing new: two guys, one girl; the girl goes for the guy she knows is trouble, gets hurt and eventually recovers, while the good guy is there for her all along the way. At first glance, this may be a story you've heard before, but from the first scene, you know Flamingo is something unique.
Playwright Alex Trow, who won the Sanguine Theatre Company's Project Playwright Festival with this very play, also serves as the show's protagonist, Caroline. Caroline is an MBA student who's working on a behavioral psychology project about gender, sexuality and porn with her friend and peer Finn (Ian Antal). While researching the project, Caroline interviews Andrew (Dylan Lamb), a student who's known for his openness with sex. Caroline is immediately put off and intrigued by Andrew's frankness during their first meeting -- which includes his telling Caroline about the sexual thoughts he is having about her -- and after a few conversations about their different opinions about and perceptions of sex, porn and relationships, they start sleeping together. Caroline quickly falls head over heels for Andrew, but the tides soon turn in their budding relationship and Caroline must learn how to move forward after a tragic heartbreak.
From the first scene, when we see Caroline interviewing Andrew about his interest in porn, it is clear that Trow has a fantastic grasp of dialogue. The show's three characters speak with ease, intelligence and humor, and their lines never seem stiff or contrived. The chemistry and tension between Caroline and Andrew in the first scene is compelling and starts the show off strong. Trow aptly portrays Caroline's nervousness and reluctance in her interactions with Andrew, and Lamb is fully engaging throughout the show, exuding an easy magnetism that informs our understanding of Caroline's fascination with the clearly ill-fated relationship. Antal, as Finn, creates a very obvious counterpoint to Lamb's Andrew, as the male friend who appears to be a safer choice for the female protagonist than her current love interest.
Overall, Trow does a good job of placing these characters very clearly and concretely in the world of mid-to late-twenties students dealing with the ups and downs of sex and love in relationships, making them seem all the more real. However, Trow generally tends to shy away from digging into her characters with any depth. We also don't see much development or exposition in Caroline's relationships, so her emotional reactions seem uncalled for at times. We see the evidence of Caroline's infatuation with Andrew in one scene as she moons over his texts, but their scenes together generally don't showcase a level of intimacy that would appear to warrant Caroline's consequential emotional responses and actions throughout the rest of the play. Similarly, we see Caroline and Finn discussing their project and her relationship with Andrew, but there isn't much insight -- through the characters' dialogue or physicality -- into the nature of their relationship either. We don't get much of a sense of the characters' backgrounds or viewpoints or traits; though in a play so grounded in the very small world of three young adults in academia dealing with romantic problems, that may not be as relevant, but it's still necessary for us as the audience to understand the motives for the characters' actions and the essential nature of the characters' relationships, especially in a play whose focus is relationships.
However, Flamingo is still an entertaining watch, with plenty of humor and characters whose stories feel familiar without feeling trite.
(Flamingo plays at the IRT Theater, 154 Christopher Street, through September 14, 2014. Performances are Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8PM; and Sundays at 3PM. Tickets are $15 in advance and available by calling 800-838-3006 or visiting brownpapertickets.com. For more show information, visit sanguinenyc.com.)