By Ben Woolf; Directed by Stephen Hamilton
Off Broadway, Play
Runs through 4.9.17
Urban Stages, 259 West 30th Street
by Shoshana Roberts on 3.26.17
Nazli Sarpkaya, Max Samuels, Rami Margron, and Christopher Daftsios in Angry Young Man. Photo by David Rodgers.
BOTTOM LINE: In a Marx Brothers-type comedy, four actors morph into various characters to tell the story of an immigrant in London.
Urban Stages is giving us Ben Woolf's Angry Young Man at an extremely relevant time. Whether or not you frequent CNN, Fox, or NBC News, immigration is a hot topic in the current political climate. As the show's promotional card tells us, the play includes “Liberal Snowflakes, Treacherous Skinheads, Desperate Illegals, and Ducks!” Stephen Hamilton directs a politically appropriate play, while making us laugh hard enough that we don't have to think about the connections to our current world if we don't desire to. The mix of comedy and commentary on how immigrants are treated is really brought to life in this production. It gives me confidence that we can chuckle and change the world simultaneously.
Actor A (Nazli Sarpkaya), Actor B (Max Samuels), Actor C (Rami Margron), and Actor D (Christopher Daftsios) all take turns playing the same characters. At their core, each of them is Yusuf, a Middle Eastern surgeon who has just arrived in London. He has an interview lined up at a local hospital and is excited to find a flat, but after meeting Patrick, his plans for a simple, happy new life are thwarted. In the heart of London, on the bus, and even in the countryside, trouble seems to follow Yusuf wherever he travels. Each new person encountered on this strange journey is another character for these four talented actors to morph into, even sometimes tag-teaming mid-scene. The transformation Max Samuels undergoes to become Alison, Patrick's girlfriend, never gets old, to the audience's delight. As an ensemble piece though, the credit really goes to all. They lean on each other literally and figuratively.
The true beauty in Angry Young Man lies in its Marx Brothers brand of comedy: fast paced, yet at times understated. If you blink you'll miss the cast's silly Harpo-like expressions or how they all completely rearrange themselves vertically through a ladder. Physical humor and wit are both prevalent in Sarpkaya, Samuels, Margron, and Daftsios's performances. It isn't seamless, but it's still a joy to watch these versatile actors. Daftsios would even give the beloved Jim Carrey a run for his money. Director Stephen Hamilton most definitely sees the strengths and weaknesses in these actors and is able to make a great product as he guides them through. There are wonderful quotable moments that will stick with me (like the phrase “If I catch you granny fiddlin' again...”) though it's a scene in an “elevator” that steals the show.
The question of how immigrants are treated is at the root of this play, with some characters not caring about Yusuf's past, others taking advantage of it, and some loving him because of it. Despite being set in London, it is clearly relevant here in the United States. If everyone were to add a dose of playwright Woolf's wonderful humor to their routine, we will make it through this trying time and flourish.
(Angry Young Man plays at Urban Stages, 259 West 30th Street, through April 9, 2017. The running time is seventy five minutes with no intermission. Performances are Mondays at 7; Wednesdays at 12 or 1; Thursdays at 7; Fridays at 7; Saturdays at 3 and 3; and Sundays at 3. Tickets are $40 and are available at urbanstages.org or by calling 1-866-811-4111.)
Angry Young Man is by Ben Woolf. Directed by Stephen Hamilton. Set Design is by Frank J. Oliva. Lighting Design is by Sebastian Paczynski. Sound Design is by David M. Lawson. Costume Design is by Yuka Silvera. Stage Manager is Taylor Alyssa Marun.
The cast is Christopher Daftsios, Rami Margron, Max Samuels, and Nazli Sarpkaya.