By Mike Amato; Directed by Andrea Andresakis
Part of the 2015 New York International Fringe Festival
Off Off Broadway, Play
Runs through 8.30.15
VENUE #1: Teatro SEA at the Clemente, 107 Suffolk Street
by Sarah Weber on 8.31.15
Mike Amato and Gary Ray in The Egg Project. Photo by Tiffany Lewis.
BOTTOM LINE: Marty returns home for the first time in fifteen years, and his parents have a shocking present for him.
After disappearing fifteen years ago from the non-stop insanity that is his parents, Marty (played by playwright Mike Amato) returns home for his birthday. It’s also the eve of his wedding to Leslie (Monica Wyche), so Marty doesn’t intend to stay “home” very long. However, all well-laid plans and good intentions go awry when his microbiologist father Robert (Gary Ray) reveals a disturbing birthday present. For the next hour and a half, Amato’s The Egg Project navigates questions of responsibility, morality, and whether the apple falls very far from the tree.
When Marty returns home with Leslie, the house hasn’t changed a bit, so it seems. All of his sports trophies from childhood are still in the same display cabinet, the collection of African valuables still sits on the same shelf, and his mom Barbara (Melissa Eddy Quilty) still keeps a bottle of bourbon close at hand. But this small time capsule doesn’t fully reflect how much this family has changed. When Marty left he was a trouble maker with a serious drinking problem. Now, thanks to Leslie’s grooming, he’s an account executive at her business and abstains from alcohol. Barbara and Robert seem to be unchanged at the surface—Barbara is still wrapped up in tribal African lore and Robert still loses himself in scientific philosophizing. But what Marty could not possibly see is the emotional trauma he left behind fifteen years ago. Convinced their son was dead, Barbara and Robert were willing to do anything to have their son back, even if it meant toying with the rules of science and of life itself. Thus Marty is confronted with impossible questions—is he partially responsible for his parents’ actions and experiments? Was it worth harboring his resentments for so long?
The Egg Project sounds strange in premise, but this creation that Amato, the cast, and creative team have created is a magnificent blend of both things familiar and things strange. This isn’t yet another dramatic comedy about family dysfunction. And it isn’t just a string of weird and unbelievable ideas chaotically strewn about the stage. Amato instead seemed to take a hint from The Twilight Zone and carefully weaves together relevant, realistic themes with very plausible scientific inquiry. It’s an extraordinarily well-written piece that is only enhanced by a perfect cast and director.
Quilty and Ray are delightful to watch onstage as Marty’s parents. They embrace their characters so fully I found myself forgetting that I was watching a play. They are captivating from the very beginning—Barbara and Robert set up a party for Marty’s birthday, and while they’re talking Robert takes out decorations that Barbara just ends up putting away. It’s an insightful reflection of how out of sync they have become with each other even when trying to appear perfect for each other. This opening also serves as a wonderful example of Andrea Andresakis’s detail-oriented directing. She riddles The Egg Project with so many small actions and hints that both bring out and imbue meaning to Amato’s script.
Simply put, The Egg Project is a delight. It may be a bit too strange for some people’s tastes, but I would still encourage those people to see this show. It’s so thoughtful and smart your mind will still be chewing on its many ideas long after.
(The Egg Progect plays at VENUE #1: Teatro SEA at the Clemente, 107 Suffolk Street, through August 23, 2015. Performances are Sat 8/14 at 7; Wed 8/19 at 4:30; Sun 8/23 at 8; Wed 8/26 at 7; and Sun 8/30 at 2:15. There is no late seating at FringeNYC. Tickets are $18 and are available at fringenyc.org. For more information visit mike-amato.com.)