By Michael Mitnick; Directed by Maggie Burrows
Produced by ARS Productions
Off Off Broadway, New Play
Runs through 11.8.14
The Wild Project, 195 E. 3rd Street
by Linda Buchwald on 10.30.14
From left: Will Connolly, Christopher Michael McFarland, and Morgan Ritchie. Photo by Hunter Canning.
BOTTOM LINE: Will Connolly is convincing, funny, and moving as a 16-year-old trying to get his play produced on Broadway.
Would you see a show on Broadway called Spacebar that takes place in the year 9003 at a bar in outer space? Kyle Sugarman thinks you should. He is positive that it will be the best play you've ever seen. He should know. He wrote it.
In Michael Mitnick's Spacebar: A Broadway Play By Kyle Sugarman, which opened Monday night at The Wild Project, Kyle (Will Connolly) is a 16-year-old high school student in Fort Collins, Colorado. He is so convinced of his play's brilliance that he writes to Broadway (his letter is actually addressed "dear Broadway") to tell it (him?) so. After three tries, Broadway actually responds, wanting to give Kyle a professional reading, which he considers an outrage. At the suggestion of his crush Jessica (Willa Fitzgerald), Kyle decides to go to New York himself to get a full production.
You have to suspend your disbelief for a lot of the play—Kyle just happens to meet Fancy McGee (John Doherty), an Off Broadway producer looking for a space play, as soon as he gets to New York, and it also happens to be on the corner of his dad's office building. This isn't really a problem as the play has a fantastical feel to it. The bigger issues are tonal, which director Maggie Burrows hasn't quite managed to reconcile. There is real tragedy in Kyle's life, but it is undermined by the more ridiculous moments. Also, Kyle's play is, as you might expect, not very good. His characters speak in clichés, as we see in scenes performed on Dane Laffrey's fun play-within-a-play set. It sounds like what a 16-year-old would write, especially one who calls himself a playwriter, but during rehearsals, the adult actors are convinced that he is a genius and it seems as if we the audience are supposed to as well.
Still, Mitnick has written a loveable character in Kyle and Connolly's performance makes it easy to care about him. He is believable as a naïve 16-year-old who is confident one minute and insecure the next. He is hilarious when reading Kyle's letters (Mitnick has written many clever lines—especially for theater nerds), but still conveys his pain. The rest of the performances are also strong. Christopher Michael McFarland stepped in for John Ellison Conlee, who had to exit due to his television filming schedule, but if he had less rehearsal time, it doesn't show. Doherty is particularly funny as Fancy and Playboy McMannahan, a character in Kyle's play who talks as if he's in a screwball comedy. Both Spacebars could use some edits, but I hope that Kyle keeps writing and that Mitnick continues to write about him. It could make for a good book series.
(Spacebar: A Broadway Play By Kyle Sugarman plays at the The Wild Project, 195 East 3rd Street, through November 8, 2014. Performances are Tuesdays through Fridays at 8PM, Saturdays at 2PM and 8PM, and Sundays at 7PM. Tickets are $18 and are available at ovationtix.com or by calling 212.352.3101. For more information visit www.thewildproject.com.)