By Michael Ross Albert; Directed by Kaitlyn Samuel
Produced by Outside Inside
Part of the 2016 New York International Fringe Festival
Off Off Broadway, Play
Runs through 8.27.16
VENUE #11: 64E4 MAINSTAGE, 64 East 4th Street
by Charlotte Arnoux on 8.20.16
Adam Petherbridge and Rosie Sowa in Miss. Photo by Kaitlyn Samuel.
BOTTOM LINE: A suspenseful drama about trauma, loss, and revenge.
How difficult it is to hate a child. How impossible it is to express love. How murky words like “mother” and “man” can be. These are the thoughts that rang in my head as I left this production of Michael Ross Albert's Miss.
Laura (Rosie Sowa)—or "Miss," as she's referred to throughout the play—is a young divorcee and English teacher at an boys' boarding school. She is now engaged to the older Gil (Daniel J. O’Brien, who bares an uncanny resemblance to Ethan Hawke both in physique and demeanor). Miss opens in an atmosphere of suspense: something has happened that has changed this couple's relationship, but we are left in the dark as to the specifics. An accident, a boy, a fight, a loss—all pieces of the full story that float about the theater as we wait for the characters to line them up.
Director Kaitlyn Samuel chooses to have the trio mostly stand and talk, giving Albert’s text the spotlight it deserves. That being said, perhaps more activity would add to the tension between the characters and to the naturalism this production is going for. The cast is a powerful trio who work very well as an ensemble. Sowa is thoughtful and measured in her acting; she seesaws adroitly between Laura’s protective, mothering instincts and her painful vulnerability. O’Brien hones in on our need to see something fall apart and creates in his interpretation of Gil a beautiful disaster-of-a-person—one we can’t quite look away from. Adam Petherbridge's portrayal of Tyler, the teenage boy at the center of the drama, is endearing and impressive. One of the standout moments— both thanks to the text and Petherbridge's performance—takes place when Tyler reads an essay he’s been hiding from Laura since the beginning. Perhaps a future production would consider an actual teenage boy for the part, which could add yet another dimension to the tension.
Underscoring the dialogue is an unsettling feeling that something is off, and constant references to violence and pain left me squirming, but in a good way. I was reminded of Yasmina Reza's God of Carnage, though Miss exchanges Reza's biting comedy for suspense and drama. A shocking ending that takes place after an already unnerving twist had me wishing Albert didn’t feed the need to give me the explosion I was expecting.
Miss is the story of three people who have fallen in their own personal ditches and have no energy or faith left to climb out. Instead, they grab their shovels and dig themselves in, deeper and deeper; I enjoyed watching them dig.
(Miss plays at VENUE #11: 64E4 MAINSTAGE, 64 East 4th Street, through August 27, 2016. The running time is 1 hour. Performances are Mon 8/15 at 7:30; Thu 8/18 at 7:45; Wed 8/24 at 3; Thu 8/25 at 5:15; and Sat 8/27 at 3. There is no late seating at FringeNYC. Tickets are $18 and are available at fringenyc.org. For more information visit michaelrossalbert.com.)
Miss is by Michael Ross Albert. Directed by Kaitlyn Samuel. Produced by Outside Inside. Technical Design by Brandon Stock. Wardrobe Consultant is Alexandra Hoffman. Fight Director is Johnny X. Wang. Stage Management by Christina Ashby. Associate Producer is Anel Carmon. Graphic Design by Whitney Allen.
The cast is Rosie Sowa, Daniel J. O’Brien, and Adam Petherbridge.