Bow WOW!

The Small Apartment

By Celia Montgomery
Directed by Maxwell Zener
Verde Inc.
Pantheon Theatre
Non-union production (closed)
Review by Doug DeVita

Men are dogs. And some of them literally are, if we are to believe Celia Montgomery and her delightful sense of comic rue. Her slight but penetrating look at male/female relationships, The Small Apartment, was recently given an outstanding production by Verde Inc., (Montgomery's own production company), and if sometimes her writing stops a few miles short of brilliance, she mercifully never goes over the top into the land of soapbox feminism either. The result is a funny, sometimes sharply observed look at the current state of relationships in this city, with a surprisingly fresh twist that gives the work an exhilarating, slightly off-kilter charm.

Alice and Drake are on a date ... or are they? Carla would never hit on Alice's man ... or would she? Alice's dog Caesar has never bitten anyone ... yet. This modern fairy tale follows a girl, her dog, her date, and her downstairs neighbor, as they are challenged by love, liquor, and square footage in a diminutive Manhattan studio apartment. Maxwell Zener directed with a sure sense of whimsical irony, always keeping the focus on the comedy but never forgetting the darker undercurrents that fuel the action. Characterizations were well-drawn, and the gifted four-member ensemble kept the evening moving with their aggressive high spirits and pure animal energy. As Drake, Alice's "date," Christian Johnstone made affected behavior hilariously appealing; Montgomery herself played Carla with a wonderfully wry sense of humor; and Kathryn Savannah, as Alice, bounced daffy logic to dizzying heights of delicious lunacy. In the most outlandish role, that of a mysterious intruder who seems to know far too much about Alice, Joshua Spafford nimbly balanced the character's more fantastic traits with a humanity that gave the evening a soul it would have lacked in lesser hands. And special mention must be made of the adorable Henry Lifshey, whose sweetly confused cameo brought the play to its bittersweet conclusion.
The set, by Chris Myers, was as realistic an evocation of a dismal downtown Manhattan closet/studio as possible: for once, the actual cramped proportions of an Off-Off-Broadway performance space were used to the advantage of a script and its needs. Jyle Nogee provided serviceable lighting, and the uncredited costumes were just right.
Montgomery the writer shows promise - she has an interesting dark side that comes out in unexpectedly funny ways, and as an actress, she deserves a role on a sit-com. Perhaps, she and Savage, her Verde Inc. partner, could be the Mary and Rhoda of the new millennium. As it now stands, they, and Verde Inc., have the potential to be a bright new voice on the Off-Off-Broadway scene if The Small Apartment was any indication. Welcome.

Box Score:

Writing: 1

Directing: 2

Acting: 2

Set: 2

Costumes: 1

Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2000 Doug DeVita