By Emily Sorensen; Directed by Alexis Wilcock
Produced by The Seedlings
Part of the 2016 New York International Fringe Festival
Off Off Broadway, Play
Runs through 8.27.16
VENUE #8: WOW Café, 59-61 East 4th Street
by Alexander Douglas on 8.19.16
BOTTOM LINE: This soup play marries form to content to tell a story about connection, perception, and the struggle to understand those we hold closest to us.
In Shapes Like Things, Danny (Leo DeFriend) explains that “when you read, you’re supposed to go left to right, beginning to end.” But Danny is dyslexic, and doesn't read like this. The audience experiences this narrative the way Danny experiences letters and words: the format is disjointed, divided into vignettes that exist in one of two time periods: the 70s and some point after the death of Danny’s father, a scholar of Greek myths. In both of these worlds, Danny is reconciling his disability with his parents’ pressure and misunderstanding. The play explores the idea of how truth can look different to everyone.
This theme is expressed in Elson Gibson-Braden’s intelligently designed space. Its fragmented quality not only allows the actors to move smoothly between time and setting, but adds a visual reinforcement to the fragmentation that exists in Danny’s words and familial relationships.
The toll of loss on the family is evident in Jillian Crane’s transformation as the mother. Her character grips at the fringes of the family ties and, following the loss of her husband, feels completely spent. From the very beginning, Crane never stops fighting; it is powerful and devastating to watch.
DeFriend provides Danny with an enjoyable charm and earnest desire, and DeFriend’s active presence and attention to his fellow actors throughout the play underline how hard Danny has to work to relate to those around him. When DeFriend must read, Gibson-Braden's projection design recreates his experience in an unsettlingly specific way. DeFriend's commitment to taking his time with each discovery allows Emily Sorensen’s words to come alive in a way that make this character and his journey not only accessible, but perhaps even somewhat universal.
(Shapes Like Things, A Soup Play plays at VENUE #8: WOW Café, 59-61 East 4th Street, through August 27, 2016. The running time is 1 hour 30 minutes. Performances are Sat 8/13 at Noon; Tue 8/16 at 7; Sun 8/21 at 6:30; Mon 8/22 at 2:45; and Sat 8/27 at 9:30. There is no late seating at FringeNYC. Tickets are $18 and are available at fringenyc.org. For more information visit shapeslikethings.com.)
Shapes Like Things, A Soup Play is by Emily Sorensen. Directed by Alexis Wilcock. Set and Projection Design by Elsa Gibson-Braden. Costume Design by Rachel Sherman-Presser. Lighting Design by Elizabeth Schweitzer. Sound Design and Stage Management by Danny Dejera. Props by Rebecca Miller. Artwork by Remy Kass.
The cast is Leo DeFriend, Julia Rose Schneiderman, Jilian Crane, and Brad Makarowski.