By Gianmarco Soresi; Directed by Jen Wineman
Produced by Robin Milling, in association with James Brent White, Todd and Elizabeth Donovan, and New Light Theater Project
Off Off Broadway, Play
Runs through 9.1.18
59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street
by Adrienne Urbanski on 8.21.18
Hannah Hale and Gianmarco Soresi in Less Than 50%. Photo by Hunter Canning.
BOTTOM LINE: This unusual romantic comedy—a play within a play in which writer-actor Gianmarco Soresi reenacts his failed relationship in order to create a happy ending—is full of clever jokes and compelling twists and turns.
Unlike the familiar, often hackneyed premise of many romantic comedies, the story at the heart of Less Than 50% is playwright Gianmarco Soresi's own. Soresi, playing himself, opens up the play with some skillful stand-up, in which he laments his half-Jewish, half-Italian ancestry and the effect having divorced parents has had on him. With a father who goes on to marry five times, and a mother who marries that same father's divorce attorney, how can he be idealistic about his own romantic future?
A brick wall behind Gianmarco opens up as he steps back in time to when he and his college classmate Laura (Hannah Hale) were rehearsing scenes for their acting class. Every scene ends with the two passionately kissing, something both seem to be into. But when Laura kisses Gianmarco outside of a scene, Gianmarco balks, worried that a sexual relationship will ruin their work and their friendship. After Laura convinces him that no matter what happens they will always be friends, the two embark on a zany, quip-filled five-year relationship. The two seem made for each other until they attend a wedding of college friends, when a theological argument leads to a break-up in the back of an Uber. Laura flies off to Los Angles to seek her fortune, quickly moving on from her feelings for Gianmarco. In what we later learn is a fictionalized addenum, Gianmarco convinces Laura to fly back to New York to perform the story of their relationship in the Fringe Festival.
Hale and Soresi are skilled performers with effervescent energy that radiates through every scene, along with deep passion and a clear devotion to this story. Jen Wineman's direction enables the actors to maximize the comedic effect of every line. The use of minimal props and a simple set, augmented by strong performances, brings to mind the show's origins in the 2014 Fringe Festival.
Soresi makes a typical story atypical by breaking down the fourth wall to create a play a couple that learns about their relationship and its dissolution by reenacting it. He shows great talent as both a comedic writer and performer. However, with all of his trickery and meta story lines, some of the honesty becomes hidden. For instance, we don't get any deep reflection on his parents' divorce, or why the loss of Laura was so devastating. But as it is, Less Than 50% will keep you on the edge of your seat, laughing nonstop. The surprises Soresi packs into this show make it anything but predictable.
(Less Than 50% plays at 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street, through September 1, 2018. Running time is 80 minutes with no intermission. Performances are Tuesdays through Fridays at 7:30, Saturdays at 2:30 and 7:30, and Sundays at 2:30. Tickets are $25. For tickets and more information visit 59e59.org or call 212-239-6200.)
Less Than 50% is by Gianmarco Soresi. Directed by Jen Wineman. Set Design by Ashleigh Poteat. Lighting Design by Driscoll Otto. Sound Design by Emily Auciello. Stage Manager is Daricel Calcano.
The cast is Gianmarco Soresi and Hannah Hale.