Wildly uneven


The Last One Left


Written by Jason Pizzarello

Directed by Dev Bondarin

Produced by Geek Ink (www.thelastoneleft.com)

Midtown International Theatre Festival (www.midtownfestival.org for showtimes)

WorkShop Jewel Box Theater, 312 West 36th St., 4th Floor

Non-union production (through August 5, 2007)

Reviewed by Sean Michael O’Donnell


Jason Pizzarello is a talented playwright.  Several years ago his play Saving the Greeks: One Tragedy at a Time - a laugh-out-loud, genuinely funny, spoof-tacular send-up of all things Greek tragedy – received an outstanding production at the 14th Street Y Theater.  Witty, intelligent and unabashedly silly, Pizzarello’s Saving the Greeks took parody to a new level.  Unfortunately his latest offering, The Last One Left, fails to live up to the promise of his earlier work, making for a disappointing and wildly uneven entry into this year’s Midtown International Theatre Festival. 


The nonsensical plot is a jumble of comedy, drama and social commentary.  The play begins as a wacky Shakespearean-inspired comedy (one of the lesser ones with dual roles and mistaken identities) and then transitions into a serio-comic social satire with not-so subtle allusions to the Iraq War and immigration before ultimately devolving into a tired family drama about loyalty and obligation.  


The story concerns itself with a severely dysfunctional family – Mother Ruth was hit in the head by a falling airplane part rendering her equal parts stupid and crazy; daughter Emma grapples with insecurity and dreams of a future in New York City; younger sister Anna announces her intentions to become a vegetarian lesbian and attend college far away from home; and creepy Uncle Richard, when not enslaving his parents in the basement, appears intermittently to make proclamations of profound inanity.   The play opens on the family preparing for their beloved son/brother/nephew Danny’s homecoming.  Danny has been gone for many years, fighting in the United States’ ongoing war against Mexico.  Each member of the family dreams of how Danny’s return will make their miserable lives better, but their hopes turn sour when Danny comes home a very changed man.  Coupled with the arrival of his war buddy Eddie, Danny’s return reveals the splintering cracks of his fragile family. 


Pizzarello’s story is a schizophrenic mess of half-ideas with no clear connections or resolutions.  Jokes land with a thud (Mexican robots?  Falling airplane debris?) and are quickly abandoned as attempts at social satire come off superficial and obvious.  Dev Bondarin’s resourceful staging helps to bridge some of the gaps in Pizzarello’s weak script, but she fails the actors when it comes to telling a cohesive story or drawing clear characterizations.  The actors are competent (particularly Emily Clare Zempel as Emma and Maria McConville as Anna), if misguided, failing to relate to their characters or each other.  Ultimately, the stage is a mess of ill-defined characters, sloppy segues and senseless contrivances where very little happens and even less makes sense.


Box Score:


Writing: 0

Directing: 1

Acting: 1

Sets: 0

Costumes: 1

Lighting/Sound: 0


Copyright 2007 Sean Michael O’Donnell


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