Off-Broadway Theater Review: THE COMPLETE AND CONDENSED STAGE DIRECTIONS OF EUGENE O’NEILL, VOLUME 2 (New York Neo-Futurists)

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by Dmitry Zvonkov on April 28, 2014

in Theater-New York

NOW SHOW ME HOW TO CHEW IT

As a critic I have a confession to make: when reading a play for fun I usually skim over the stage directions. I generally don’t care how many chairs are in a room or what color the rug is or whether what’s in the corner is a dresser or an armoire. I mostly just care about who enters, who exits, and who gets shot. And, to be fair to myself, most stage directions for most plays are disposable.

Roberta Colindrez, Cara Francis, and Dylan Marron in THE COMPLETE AND CONDENSED STAGE DIRECTIONS OF EUGENE O'NEILL, VOLUME 2.

So I was intrigued to learn of the New York Neo-Futurists’ show The Complete and Condensed Stage Directions of Eugene O’Neill Vol. 2, in which four actors perform only the stage directions from five O’Neill short plays while a narrator (Cesil Baldwin) reads those directions aloud.

Dylan Marron, Christopher Borg, Cara Francis, Roberta Colindrez, and Cecil Baldwin in THE COMPLETE AND CONDENSED STAGE DIRECTIONS OF EUGENE O'NEILL, VOLUME 2.

The plays featured in this energized and often hilarious show are Recklessness, about infidelity and murder in a mansion; Warnings, that concerns a poor wireless operator; Fog, about a poet, a businessman, and a mother with a dead baby adrift in a lifeboat; Abortion, about the consequences of an abortion; and The Sniper, about a father finding his son killed in a war.

Christopher Borg and Dylan Marron in THE COMPLETE AND CONDENSED STAGE DIRECTIONS OF EUGENE O'NEILL, VOLUME 2.

The delightful cast, which includes Christopher Borg, Roberta Colindrez, Cara Francis, and Dylan Marron, performs the first four plays strictly for comedic effect, with gestures and expressions that are completely over the top. This mostly works well; O’Neill’s directions are so overabundant, so detailed and specific, so precious, that they overflow into the realm of the ridiculous, which makes them perfect for parody.

Christopher Borg, Roberta Colindrez, and Dylan Marron in THE COMPLETE AND CONDENSED STAGE DIRECTIONS OF EUGENE O'NEILL, VOLUME 2.

The performers, under Christopher Loar’s helpful direction (Loar also adapts the text), are resourceful and deliver vibrant renditions. And although on a few occasions I found myself wishing that some of the interpretations were a bit more grounded and a little less gaggy, overall the first four plays are a great deal of fun. Unfortunately the last one, The Sniper, done as straight tragedy, doesn’t work. But all-in-all that doesn’t really matter; the show has enough energy, fluidity, and laughs to absorb the misstep.

Cecil Baldwin in THE COMPLETE AND CONDENSED STAGE DIRECTIONS OF EUGENE O'NEILL, VOLUME 2.

photos by Hunter Canning

The Complete and Condensed Stage Directions of Eugene O’Neill, Volume 2
New York Neo-Futurists
Theater for the New City
155 1st Avenue in the East Village
scheduled to end on May 11, 2014
for tickets, call 1-866-811-4111 or visit www.nynf.org

Cara Francis, Dylan Marron, Roberta Colindrez, and Christopher Borg in THE COMPLETE AND CONDENSED STAGE DIRECTIONS OF EUGENE O'NEILL, VOLUME 2

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