By Connor Sampson, Nicole Hill, Daniel McCoy, and Katy-May Hudson; Directed by Connor Sampson and Greg Taubman
Produced by the New York Neo-Futurists
Off Off Broadway, Experimental Play
Runs through 2.5.17
A.R.T./NY Jeffrey and Paula Gural Theatre, 502 West 53rd Street
by Lexi Orphanos on 1.21.17
Daniel McCoy, Katy-May Hudson, Nicole Hill, and Connor Sampson in The Great American Drama. Photo by Hunter Canning.
BOTTOM LINE: This quartet of Neo-Futurists presents an immersive experiment of a play with The Great American Drama, in which both the audience and actor collaborate equally to create art and a signature sense of nonsense.
The Neo-Futurists are at it again in an instant audience favorite, but this time, instead of showing you what sheer ridiculousness that they've crafted, the new Great American Drama is completely constructed from audience requests and survey responses from the past two years. Creator, co-writer, and performer Connor Sampson—who holds a B.F.A. in Dramatic Writing from NYU—explained that he wanted the show to work as an experiment, posing the hypothesis: can the "great American drama" only be penned by an insightful demigod, or is there a formula that both viewers and performers can feed into to make what is indeed the next great American drama? And before going any further: yes, they do realize that it would be a lot easier to just "be Hamilton."
Upon purchasing tickets to the beloved theatre troupe's fun-filled attempt at mastering The Great American Drama, a survey automatically arrives to your inbox, asking what you, the "viewer," value in a production (actors? excellent sets?), what you'd pay money to see onstage (a fountain of period blood?), and even includes a free-for-all section where you can leave requests for what must be included in the performance. The best part about this survey, though, is that for the first time ever, both viewers and performers took the survey seriously, and the four writers honored every request, doing their best to incorporate it into the show. One of these requests was "I'd like to suddenly, unexpectedly cry," and the foursome was extremely successful. Another request was to see the entire presidential election of 2016 summarized in a five act structure complete with iambic pentameter, which launched the cast into a charming summary of our grim future, showcasing performer Nicole Hill's award-winning puppetry work.
If you were lucky enough to see the Neo-Futurists' long-running production of Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, then this set up probably sounds familiar. For those who have not, a ticket is a guaranteed new, fun experience. Some parts admittedly flounder while others shock the theatre with a poignancy that any Broadway play could only aspire to achieve. What makes these moments even more special is that the performers are so tangible and personable, and—after many "requests" and sketches— they bring up the house lights and ask for feedback on how to iron out anything that hurts their chance of being a Great American Drama. At the end of the evening, the humble cast asks that you text a phone number listed in the playbill answering the simple question: "Did they succeed?" The answers are anonymously broadcast and tallied onstage, and on Friday, January 20th, 2017, the cast was 94% successful, but remained most interested in the 6% upon which they fell short. The four minds behind The Great American Drama are sure to entertain, and sure to set a classy example of what it means to be a truly humble, selfless actor, wanting only to be the best that they can, never settling for 94%, and giving over to the grit and required nudity that takes an A to an A+.
(The Great American Drama plays at the Jeffrey and Paula Gural Theatre at A.R.T. / New York, 502 West 53rd Street, through February 5, 2017. The running time is ninety minutes with no intermission. Performances are Tuesdays through Friday at 7:30; Saturdays at 2:30 and 7:30; and Sundays at 2:30. Tickets are $18 and are available at nyneofuturists.org.)
The Great American Drama is by Connor Sampson, Nicole Hill, Daniel McCoy, and Katy-May Hudson. Created by Connor Sampson. Directed by Connor Sampson and Greg Taubman. Dramaturgy by Greg Taubman. Lighting Design and Technical Direction by Justin Cornell. Production Design by Ross Jernigan. Fight Choreography by Yoshi Kuroi. Live music by Lijie. Original song "Soul Bird" by Andrew J. Hanley. Stage Manager is Hadley Todoran.
The cast is Nicole Hill, Katy-May Hudson, Daniel McCoy, and Connor Sampson.