Written and Directed by Max Baker
Produced by Stable Cable Lab Co.
Off Off Broadway, New Play
Playing through 11.7.15
Wild Project, 195 East 3rd Street
by Keith Paul Medelis on 11.1.15
Alice Johnson and Emmanuel Elpenord in Because Me. Photo credit: Katy Atwell.
BOTTOM LINE: Because Me presents the realities of New York City millennials raised to believe that we are special.
Moving into her first studio apartment is artist—and, more practically, Trader Joe’s employee—Else (Alice Johnson). As it is for all of us cash-strapped New Yorkers, this is a big step into the glorious unknown. Naturally, the neighborhood is less than desirable in the very real debate between affordability and livability. Friend Mimi (Eve Marie Muger) can’t believe how far Else’s new place is from the train, not to mention the epic stairs she must climb due to a broken elevator.
Neighbor Kyle (Emmanuel Elpenord) drops by to welcome her into the apartment belonging most recently to a deceased woman. Left behind is an armchair and a single slipper. He seems nice enough though certainly likes to overstay his welcome. It becomes increasingly clear that Else has moved to a neighborhood of long-time mostly black residents and her younger, white skin is a bit out of place. This seems to not faze her much, until friends Celia (Samantha Strelitz), Liv (Lisa Jill Anderson), and Roman (Arthur Kriklivy) start to point to warning signs. A laptop mysteriously disappears one day, which comes as not a surprise to us, as Else’s lock is broken.
The decorating of Else’s apartment (designed with IKEA-realness by Doss Freel) continues despite some reservations. Tensions with Kyle escalate, suspicion over the lost laptop mounts, and an unexpected visitor arrives to put Else’s troubles into perspective. Director and playwright Max Baker has concocted a ripe, realistic world filled with conversations I know all of us New Yorkers have found ourselves in. Roman is given some of the play’s best speeches dispelling the virtues of American “all-you-can-eat” buffets that have somehow become a good thing. Baker’s writing is an important counter-argument to a culture that increasingly asks us to believe that we are special, rather arguing that “there are millions of you.” Problems are small ones in Because Me. Indeed it feels like an enormously high-stakes play without any conflict. What is exactly the problem?
Because Me joins the parade of stories about late twenty-somethings becoming 30, struggling to find independence in New York City. And it’s a solid take on this trope. For me, it’s not adding much we haven’t heard, however. It’s also a bit upstaged by Tracey Scott Wilson’s provocative play Buzzer last season at the Public that has a biting, almost Greek tragedy approach to this story combined with on-topic discussions of gentrification in this dizzy city. That said, Stable Cable Lab Co. is one to watch and Because Me is a play to check out for all of us who have looked at, considered, or even ventured into your very own studio apartment in New York City.
(Because Me is presented at the Wild Project, 195 East 3rd Street, through November 7, 2015. Performances on November 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, & 7 are at 7:30, November 7 at 2, and Monday, November 2 at 1. Tickets are between $2 and $20 and can be purchased in advance at stablecablelabco.org or by calling OvationTix at 866.811.4111. Tickets are being sold on a sliding scale, with the price increasing $2 every performance day.)
Because Me is written and directed by Max Baker. Original Music Score is by Lee Sellars. Set Design is by Doss Freel. Lighting Design is by Katy Atwell. Sound Design is by Andy Evan Cohen. Props Design and Assistant Set Design is by Zachary Sitrin. Production Stage Manager is Sara Mallen DeNatalie. Producers are Vera Khodasevich and Emily McDevitt.
The cast is Lisa Jill Anderson, Reuben Barsky, Emmanuel Elpenord, Will Hand, Alice Johnson, Arthur Kriklivy, Ricki Lynée, Eve Marie Mugar, Ian Poake, and Samantha Strelitz.