By Sean-Patrick O'Brien; Directed by Leslie Burby
Produced by Eccentric Theater Company
Part of the 2016 New York International Fringe Festival
Off Off Broadway, Play
Runs through 8.25.16
VENUE #14: The Steve & Marie Sgouros Theatre, 115 MacDougal Street, 3rd Floor
THIS SHOW IS PART OF FRINGE ENCORES, PLAYING AT SOHO PLAYHOUSE FROM 10.3 to 10.15.
FOR TICKETS AND MORE INFO VISIT sohoplayhouse.com.
by Amy Gijsbers van Wijk on 8.21.16
Joseph Franchini in Zamboni.
BOTTOM LINE: Zamboni is a dramatic roller coaster ride about temptation, desire, and obsession—in all the wrong places.
What do you think of when you think of ice skating? For some people, it’s fun, the winter holidays, and family time. For others, like Jamie (Joseph Franchini), ice skating evokes thoughts of temptation, danger, and risk—and his job as the driver of the ice rink’s Zamboni.
Zamboni focuses on the life of Jamie, who struggles within himself to resist his deepest, darkest urges: being drawn to children. We meet his boss, his mother Gail (the compelling Lucy McMichael)—for whom Jamie buys groceries and provides—and several other characters. In fact, while the cast of the play is large given its scope, I was struck by the immense talent of the actors in their performances, especially Franchini, McMichael, and Dawn McGee, who plays Leeann, an affable woman in search of companionship.
The monologues and banal conversations of Zamboni run most smoothly throughout the play. Given the intense, grinding plot of the piece, and the shifting between scenes and locations, I found myself most invested when the play took a moment to relax into the characters. In these actors' hands, Leeann’s humor during a dinner conversation about her “androgynous” name, or Gail’s gasping desire for cigarettes even as she reaches for her oxygen tank, feels real, weighted, and fresh.
While the plot moves forward, some moments feel predictable. I could mark the twists and turns of the shifts before they were spoken, although this didn’t bother me terribly. Although the plot's predictablity may cut some of the tension, the script and acting are exciting enough to hold attention,
The world of the play does center around the life of Jamie, and this creates some limitations. More tangential characters—such as Jamie’s boss; colleague; or Chloe, the store-clerk next door—feel the most active because they are able to pursue needs outside of Jamie. But due to their intimacy and proximity, Gail and Leeann appear largely in relationship to Jamie’s needs, perhaps to the play’s detriment. For all of Jamie’s inner and existential strife, I found myself drawn to the moments when the other characters talk not about Jamie’s relationship to them, but about themselves.
Leslie Kincaid Burby's direction of Zamboni is strong, with smooth execution of transitions and technical elements. At times, I found certain sound cues (often memories, or hints of something being discussed onstage) a bit of an unnecessary hint, but it’s possible that if this were performed in a bigger house, the sound would provide an extra layer of nuance.
Overall, Zamboni is a thoughtful and prodding piece of theatre about a specific world, exploring the taboos and examining the unique moments within. I found myself captivated throughout, and excited to see the progressions and dynamics. The cast brings true presence and talent in a way that I’ve yet to see in this year's Fringe, and the piece is truly memorable.
(Zamboni plays at VENUE #14: The Steve & Marie Sgouros Theatre, 115 MacDougal Street, 3rd Floor, through August 25, 2016. The running time is 1 hour 30 minutes. Performances are Sat 8/13 at 8:45; Wed 8/17 at 7:15; Sat 8/20 at 3:45; Tue 8/23 at 7:15; and Thu 8/25 at 5. There is no late seating at FringeNYC. Tickets are $18 and are available at fringenyc.org. For more information visit eccentrictheatercompany.com. For information about and tickets to this show's Fringe Encores run, visit sohoplayhouse.com.)
Zamboni is by Sean-Patrick O’Brien. Directed by Leslie Kincaid Burby. Set Design is by Duane Pagano. Lighting Design is by Nate Cabana. Sound Design is by Benny Goldmintz. Costume Design is by Chloe Heyman and Molly Tomecek.
The cast is Nick Di Leonardi, Joseph Franchini, Dylan Martin Frankel, Dawn McGee, Lucy McMichael, Mae Mitchell, Mickey Ryan, and Lauren Slakter.