School daze

 

The Red Paintball

 

Written and directed by Laura and Alyssa Waldron

Midtown International Theatre Festival (www.midtownfestival.org)

Dorothy Strelsin Theatre, 312 West 36th Street, 1st Floor

Non-union (through July 30, 2008)

Review by Michael D. Jackson

 

This one act comedy traces the antics of a group of teens who shoot their principal with a paint gun. Once the deed is done, the majority of the tedious hour of nonsense is spent with the principal (Vincent DiGeronimo) grilling the students to find out which one is the culprit. Turns out that the most untrustworthy of the gang went and spilled the beans, though she didn’t say exactly which one of the group fired the shot.

 

The gang of teens is made up of Mary (Alyssa Schroeter) the tattletale, Luke (Robbie Simpson) the leader of the pranksters, Johanna (Mary Pasquale, an Irish looking actress playing an ebonics speaking ghetto girl), and Matthew (Will Szigethy) the geek and Mark (Matthew Patane) the jock. All perform as well as can be expected while harnessed to a script that takes a long time to go nowhere. Most of the characters barely have enough material to define a character. An exception to the mix is a delightful character named Norma Spiegel, a secretary at the school played with a comic deadpan by Alexandra Heinen. As the play is completely absurd, the enterprise might have worked if all the characters were as comically inspired as Norma Spiegel. DiGeronimo’s principal fits well into this absurdist world, but the character wanders about without any focus. And although DiGeronimo is giving one hundred percent and is sweating bullets to keep the production at full comic tilt with a perplexed Billie Burke delivery, he only seems aimless.

 

When finally at last the culprit is found (there is no suspense here, we know who it is from the beginning), the play takes a bizarre turn to focus on the principal making sexual advances to a male student. The remaining comic business concerns the student trying to get away from the principal in a locked office. What all of this is supposed to mean is unknown. There is no clear point of view from the authors and no idea of what the audience is supposed to learn from this play about high school, teenagers or inappropriate principals. The play basically consists of three scenes: a short set up, a long plodding middle, and a final scene that is nearly unrelated to the build up of the first two thirds of the play. There were plenty of laughable antics, but without any of the comedy being tied to some basis of truth, the lunacy only registered as experimental antics laced with easy gags.

 

 

Box Score:

 

Writing: 0

Directing: 0

Acting: 2

Sets: 0

Costumes: 1

Lighting/Sound: 1

 

Copyright 2008 by Michael D. Jackson

 

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