By Kristina Grosspietsch and Devin O'Neill; Directed by Matt Alspaugh
Part of the 2018 New York International Fringe Festival
Off Off Broadway, Play
Runs through 10.28.18
FringeHUB, 685 Washington Street
by Emily Cordes on 10.18.18
Devin O'Neill and Kristina Grosspietsch in Opening Night. Photo by Anthony Velez.
BOTTOM LINE: A madcap Broadway premiere, from eight different perspectives.
As anyone in theatre will tell you, a play depends on your vantage point: whether you’re performing, running things backstage, or watching from the audience, the same show can be a totally different experience. It is from this concept that comedic duo Devin O'Neill and Kristina Grosspietsch create Opening Night, using eight different characters to tell the tale of a Broadway premiere gone awry.
Set in Broadway’s so-called "golden age," Opening Night begins as twin sisters—and bitter rivals—Joan de Tuileries (Grosspietsch) and Margo Nightingale (O’Neill) each prepare for their one-woman career retrospectives, only to discover they’ve been scheduled to perform together. As the women squabble for the spotlight, we’re transported to the tech booth, where eccentric director George (O’Neill) revels in the spectacle he’s built and stage manager Nancy (Grosspietsch) scrambles to control the chaos. Next, Grosspietsch and O’Neill take us backstage, where two stagehands wrestle unwieldy props and unaddressed romantic tension as they find themselves alone in the dark together. Finally, feuding brothers-in-law Gary and Bill react from the audience, their zeal for the show breeding unexpected common ground and hope for reconciliation.
With each set of characters, Grosspietsch and O’Neill display remarkable versatility and comic precision. As divas Joan and Margo, the two sync up perfectly in their mirrored physicality and stinging repartee. Likewise, their portrayal of Gary and Bill’s journey from stubborn animosity to genuine bromance is as heartwarming as it is funny. George’s delusions of grandeur and fear of obsolescence speak to creatives’ constant inner war, while stage managers—or anyone running a messy situation—will relate to Nancy’s frantic tenacity, de facto nanny role, and top-of-the-world triumph when things go right. While less developed, the stagehands’ charming awkwardness and simmering attraction keep us engaged in off- and onstage drama. Occasionally, the overlapping dialogue can muddy our focus, especially in the piece’s Joan/Margo scenes and hectic finale. Nonetheless, this tactic amplifies moments of chaos, and the women manage it by playing to their respective sides of the audience when splitting our attention.
Absurd and oddly touching, Opening Night reveals the interconnection and insanity behind any complex human endeavor. To paraphrase Geoffrey Rush in Shakespeare in Love, the natural state of theatre, and life, is one of insurmountable obstacles and imminent disaster. Yet miraculously, it all works out.
(Opening Night plays at FringeHUB, 685 Washington Street at Charles Street, through October 28, 2018. Meet at the WHITE FringeNYC flag. The running time is 1 hour. Performances are Sun 10/14 at 7, Tue 10/16 at 9, Sat 10/20 at 9, Sun 10/21 at 5:15, and Sun 10/28 at 1:45. There is no late seating at FringeNYC. Tickets are $22 (plus $3.69 ticketing fee), $16 (plus $3.51) for seniors, and are ONLY available online at fringenyc.org. For more information visit devinandkristina.com.)
Opening Night is written and performed by Kristina Grosspietsch and Devin O'Neill. Directed by Matt Alspaugh.