I really encourage you to go see Meg's New Friend, by Blair Singer, playing through December 20 at Manhattan Theatre Source.
I encourage you not because it is a smart and funny play that comments astutely on a host of hot-button issues, including but not limited to religion, sex and race. The play examines our level of (dis)comfort acknowledging, discussing and living with our prejudices, as well as the nature of relationships between lovers, siblings, parents and friends. It looks at who we turn to and why, what we need, what we want and how, ultimately, what we do affects what we get.
I encourage you not because it is exceptionally well acted by a cast of four who deftly navigate their way through a host of political and emotional twists and turns. It is at one moment a light hearted comedy, then a tension filled political debate the next. It is at one turn a comment on the combative nature of disintegrating affections between two (soon to be former) lovers, then the next, a view into the healing power of familial love. It is an investigation of who we turn to when we are wounded, and then it is a reflection on how our words and deeds wound. Each actor breathes credible life into his or character: I believed Rachel (Mary Cross) as she sobbed on the street while talking to her brother about her loneliness. I identified with Samuel's (Michael Solomon) frustration and desperation as he struggled to hold on to Meg as she slipped away. I understood Meg's (Megan McQuillan) need as she tentatively stepped away from what was safe towards her liberation. And I was drawn to Ty's (Damon Gupton) anger and vulnerability as he struggled to find his place.
I encourage you not because the producers have put together an attractive production that effectively uses a tiny yet intimate playing space to incredible advantage. The intimacy creates a compelling immediacy, and unwittingly entices you into the world and the psyches of the characters. The benefit of a small theatre is that subtlety is never lost in the chasm between performer and audience. Here every roll of the eye or half smile or brush of hair is infused with great meaning because you feel as if you are actually in the room and in the world with the characters. The set, effective lighting, sound and character appropriate costumes round out a production with a high level of style and appeal.
The reason I encourage you to see this play is because collectively all of the above elements make a truly great evening of theatre that, to my mind at least, really represents the best of off-off-Broadway. You get the opportunity to witness artistry of the highest caliber before it has succumbed to the exigencies of commerce. I think most artists aspire to ascend the commercial ladder as that is the most effective way for your work to be seen and, hopefully, appreciated by the masses and, realistically speaking, the only way to make a living at it. And there is certainly nothing wrong with those goals. But I hope the team that put together Meg's New Friend (led by director Mark Armstrong), whatever their individual and collective ambitions may be, really embrace what they have accomplished here, and know that this kind of intellectually and emotionally stimulating theatre is rare at any ticket price.
(Meg's New Friend runs through December 20th at Manhattan Theatre Soruce, 177 MacDougal Street. Performances are Monday at 8pm, Wednesday through Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 3pm. Tickets are $25.00 and can be purchased at 212-352-3101.)