By Brian Reno and Gabriel Vega Weissman; Directed by Logan Reed
Part of the 2015 New York International Fringe Festival
Off Off Broadway, Short Plays
Runs through 8.29.15
VENUE #10: The Kraine Theater, 85 East 4th Street
by Jenna Ready on 8.25.15
The Cast of Loose Canon.
BOTTOM LINE: A hilarious ninety-minute ride through theater history immersed in twentieth century banality.
Even the most prolific of playwrights has a style, a particular gait to their work. You can close your eyes and within ten seconds recognize the words of Shakespeare or David Mamet; the flair is familiar, the themes related. Loose Canon, a collection of six short pieces by Brian Reno and Gabriel Vega Weissman, takes those familiar rhythms and places them in the most unexpected and banal of settings. What results is an hour and a half of madcap hilarity, in which you are never sure where you might end up.
Spaced chronologically, the six shorts reflect the styles of Western society’s most influential playwrights. “The Elmae," a Sophocles-style Greek tragedy complete with full chorus and laced with hubris during a five-year-old's birthday party, kicks things off. Up next we are treated to “The Tragicomedie of Moira and Rosa: Mothers and Thieves,” where we explore how Shakespeare might pen a review on Amazon.com. My personal favorite, “Desire Under the Malms,” in which Reno and Weissman’s creativity truly shines, is a Moliere-inspired rhyming couplet argument set in an IKEA dining hall. We see three Chekhovian sisters attempting to save their father’s failing Taco Bell in "The El Taquiera,” are exposed to the true torture of economy airline travel in the Beckett-style “The Full, Upright, and Locked Position,” and are finally treated to Mamet’s ruthless office politics in the break room of your neighborhood Petco in the play’s final piece, “The Vessel.”
The concept is simple, and the direction by Logan Reed is swift and tight—keeping things clipping at a fast pace as you travel through the ages. The talented cast, most notably Cynthia Nesbit and Becky Baumwoll, seamlessly move from genre to genre, revealing a troupe of actors with true range and likeability. The writing by Weissman and Reno is creative and accessible. While those of us familiar with these playwrights will certainly be “in” on more jokes than the average theatergoer, even a novice will be able to chuckle and enjoy the ride. The simple cardboard set by Riw Rakkulchon transitions smoothly from piece to piece, providing just enough context for the audience to keep up.
While at moments the concept can seem to wear thin, the production always manages to save itself by shocking its audience with a new juxtaposition that highlights the ability of theater to find life or death circumstances in even the most unlikely of scenarios. Loose Canon is a must-see for any avid theater lover and a fantastic example of the versatility within the historical canon.
(Loose Canon plays at VENUE #10: The Kraine Theater, 85 East 4th Street, through August 29, 2015. Performances are Sun 8/16 at 6; Thu 8/20 at 9:15; Sat 8/22 at noon; Mon 8/24 at 2:15; and Sat 8/29 at 7:45. The extra Fringe Fave performance is on Sun 8/30 at 3. There is no late seating at FringeNYC. Tickets are $18 and are available at fringenyc.org. For more information visit loosecanontheplay.com.)