Off-Broadway Theater Review: THIS IS FICTION (Cherry Lane Studio Theater)

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by Dmitry Zvonkov on June 18, 2012

in Theater-New York

THIS IS LIFETIME TV AS THEATER

In Megan Hart’s first full-length play This is Fiction, Amy (Aubyn Philanbaum) is on the verge of signing the contract to publish her first book when she panics and runs out of her publisher’s office. After a brief encounter with likable young school teacher Ed (Bernardo Cubría), she rushes off to her New Jersey childhood home on Perfect Street, where her aging widower father David (Richard Masur) is looked-after by his other daughter, a stay behind named Celia (Michelle David). Amy hasn’t been back to the house in years, and Celia is, at first, excited and hopeful. But Celia’s attitude quickly turns to resentment as she realizes that Amy did not show up on account of Celia’s birthday, which is that day, a fact both sister and father forgot. We come to discover that it’s always been this way at the house on Perfect Street: Celia was always the good girl, the one who gave and sacrificed but received little recognition or reward, whereas Amy always did whatever she wanted, was egotistical, even selfish, but got all the attention and praise. Now Amy tells her father and sister that she’s written a memoir, which focuses on herself and Celia’s dead mother. The memoir becomes the main source of conflict in the household.

Dmitry Zvonkov’s New York review of This is Fiction at Cherry LaneThe writing is fairly dynamic, and the 85-minute This is Fiction passes quickly. There are laughs along the way and the climax is powerful, thanks especially to Ms. David’s admirable performance as Celia. The set (Lauren Helpern), which functions as both an eat-in kitchen in a New Jersey house and a coffee shop in New York City, is convincing. The straightforward lighting (Les Dickert) and sound design (Leon Rothenberg) both serve their respective purpose, and the costumes (Ashley Gardner) work well to compliment the characters.

Dmitry Zvonkov’s New York review of This is Fiction at Cherry LaneThere isn’t much theatricality to any of it though, just as there isn’t much theatricality to the writing. For one thing, the frequent scene changes give the impression that the play was at some point conceived as a TV or movie script. Ed is barely a character and his little monologue, when he tells Amy off, is so corny that it’s embarrassing to watch. David’s part is underwritten, especially considering the enormous energetic and emotional presence that the first-rate Mr. Masur brings to the stage.

Dmitry Zvonkov’s New York review of This is Fiction at Cherry LaneBoth Ms. Hart and director Shelly Butler clearly intend Amy to be, in spite of her faults, fundamentally loving, caring and ultimately sympathetic; Instead, the character comes off, at bottom, to be a completely selfish and vacuous narcissist. Add to this the pedestrian subject matter, which reeks of autobiography, and the banal way in which it’s explored, and the result is essentially a Lifetime movie that takes place on a stage, as devoid of insight and irony as the genre implies.

photos by Jason White

This is Fiction
InViolet Repertory Theater Company at The Cherry Lane Studio Theater in New York City
scheduled to end on June 30, 2012
for tickets, call 212-352-3101 or visit http://invioletrep.com/

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