BOTTOM LINE: A very animated Egyptian man (played by a woman) struggles to get his passport approved in this engaging and surprising solo show.
Under St. Marks has a very gritty feeling. The handful of shows that I’ve seen there have been low-budget theater or comedy shows that fit the tone of the East Village block. Funny stands out as a show of a different breed. It is not that it's "un-hip" but at its core it's a substantial piece of quality stagecraft.
Denmo Ibrahim portrays a middle-aged Egyptian-American accountant who is trudging through the annoyingly meticulous process of applying for a US passport. Again and again he goes through the line only to discover that one detail of his application is not correct and he must start all over again. Misery, yes, but the man does not let it dampen his spirits or determination as he exudes his frustrations and determination to get it right.
Modern Egyptian culture is rarely portrayed on stage. In fact, a friend who saw the show with me is of Egyptian decent and commented that Ibrahim nailed the nuances and character choices typical of the culture. I loved watching Ibrahim work, particularly as the character becomes very effusive with others, rattles his change in his pants (a lovely touch), and mutters in Arabic under his breath.
Funny isn't really funny at all. The name doesn’t do it justice. In fact, there is a good chunk of tragedy in this play that gives this show considerable weight. The name admittedly threw me off. Also worth noting is the strange dark turn the show takes at the end. It is a gripping moment although somewhat out of the blue. Again, not a comedy.
Although only 45 minutes in length, Funny provides an enjoyable experience. Solo shows can be a gamble, but this one has theatrical experience and character work that deliver.
(Funny: A Trunk Show plays at the UNDER St. Mark's Theatre, 94 St. Mark's Place, through March 6, 2011. Remaining performances are February 26th at 5:30PM, March 1st at 7:30PM, March 5th at 1PM and March 6th at 4PM. Tickets are $15 and $10 for students and can be purchased at smarttix.com. For more festival information visit frigidnewyork.info.)