By Richard Gustin; Directed by Mindy Cooper
Part of the 2015 New York International Fringe Festival
Off Off Broadway, Play
Runs through 8.22.15
VENUE #12: 64E4 Underground, 64 East 4th Street
by Ken Kaissar on 8.20.15
William Youmans and Allison Minick in Being Seen. Photo by Matthew Dunivan.
BOTTOM LINE: A maniacal director puts an actor through a ridiculous audition in this hilarious comedy.
Theatre people tend to be compassionate, open-minded, and socially conscious. They’re also completely nuts. That’s the hilarity on which Richard Gustin's Being Seen is built.
The premise here is very simple. It’s one actor (Allison Minick) auditioning for one director (William Youmans) to be a part of a company. The audition is extensive and seems to include just about any whim that occurs to the director: cross upstage, cross downstage, be a fly, be a spider. And god love her, the actress follows every ridiculous direction like a pro. At one point, the director starts banging out a rhythm on the wall without any further instruction. The actress spontaneously improvises a dance worthy of Alvin Ailey in response. This actress would excel in front of the most maniacal of directors.
Minick and Youmans are hilarious together. Minick captures the desperation that motivates actors to go along with any stupid request that a pretentious director puts in front of them. And Youmans, quite the veteran of the Broadway stage, is brilliant as the eccentric auteur, constantly contradicting himself within the same sentence, then acting as though confusion is inevitable and, in fact, the only reasonable response to this farce that we all call life. Watching these two play off of each other is a treat.
The hilarity, however, goes on a bit too long. With a running time of 90 minutes, this piece would have been stronger at half the length. Gustin packs this play with a lot of shtick, as he should when writing a comedy. But he needed to rely more on director Mindy Cooper to reel him back in and separate the superfluous from the essential.
Many members of the audience were clearly identifying with the ridiculousness of this audition, which leads me to believe that the house was predominantly made up of theatre artists. What gets me is that while we’re all laughing at this absurd situation today, half of us will walk into an audition room tomorrow and eagerly put up with the same exact nonsense, or worse. I wonder, at what point does the hilarious just become sad? If you’re an actor in need of venting some frustration towards a wildly pretentious director, Being Seen is the perfect outlet for you.
(Being Seen plays at VENUE #12: 64E4 Underground, 64 East 4th Street, through August 22, 2015. Performances are Mon 8/17 at 9; Tue 8/18 at 5; Wed 8/19 at 7; Fri 8/21 at 2:45; and Sat 8/22 at 7. The extra Fringe Fave performance is on Sun 8/30 at 4. There is no late seating at FringeNYC. Tickets are $18 and can be purchased at fringenyc.org. For more information visit www.beingseentheplay.com.)