You've Got Hate Mail

hate-mailA comedy solely dramatized from emails and text messages? So the promotional materials claimed. Would I be looking at computer screen projections for an hour and a half with no intermission? Or perhaps a long comic PowerPoint presentation? When the house lights dimmed and the stage lights went up, I was relieved see no screen upon which to project anything, as five live actors seated themselves in front of laptops neatly spaced out on The Triad's narrow stage.

What unfolded was a hilarious, riotous, and over-the-top evening's presentation of a meticulously crafted bedroom farce sans bedroom (or any "room," for that matter). The story was played out by the five actors, speaking as they email and text, all seated for the duration. The nature of this constriction requires actors whose voices, faces, gestures, and limited body movements could, despite essentially sitting still and facing forward, convey the extreme comic import of an undulating narrative. Each actor, in short, was superb. I cannot imagine any big-name stars of stage and screen improving on their performances.

The story is simple: Man cheats on wife most bestially. Wife's best friend finds out and clues her in. Complications ensue. Man's best friend advises and complicates further. The younger, decidedly low-minded other woman just complicates. Absurdity is piled upon absurdity. The laughs and hilarity, after a civil and orderly set up, are non-stop. Just when it seemed the craziness could go no further it is, yes, compounded beyond the beyond, and the ubiquitous laughter expands into shrieks. This is "farce" in the best theatrical sense. Personally, I haven't enjoyed theater like this since the days of the late Charles Ludlum and his Ridiculous Theatrical Company.

Moreover, this is classical farce -- improbable situations, mistaken identities, word play, fast-paced plot, an elaborate chase ending (unbelievably, it is there) -- played out against the backdrop of this era's communication technology and all the things that can go wrong with it (and the mischief that can be made of it.) The playwrights -- Jane Milmore as the wife, Stephanie, and Billy Van Zandt as the husband, Richard -- know their stuff both as authors and performers. That is the "stuff" of Oscar Wilde to Noel Coward to Abbot & Costello, on and on. The other cast members' performances are informed by that same "stuff." Barbara Bonilla is wonderful as the buttinsky best friend, a single disappointed professional woman of a certain age. Glenn Jones does a marvelous turn as "the best friend" George, a goofy divorced middle-ager with a Hillary Clinton fixation. (Mr. Jones's characterization is reminiscent of the late Joe E. Brown in Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot.) Fran Solgan is truly perfect as Wanda, "the other woman" with pinpoint and oblivious vulgarity. One must hand it to the director, Gary Shaffer, for creating a seamless ensemble of consummately skilled players.

I can't recommend this play enough. (The previous sentence is a reference to the single funniest bit in the play. You'll just have to see the play to know why and it will be well worth your while.) - Jay Reisberg

(Photo: Danny Sanchez)

You’ve Got Hate Mail is performed on the following dates:
October 21, November 16, November 19, December 2 and December 30, 2010
The Triad is located at 158 West 72nd Street, NYC 10023
Tickets available via http://www.smarttix.com

jay-reisberg-photo

Jay Reisberg is a UCLA film school grad, professional singer, comedian, assistant to the founder of New York's Love Street Theatre and bon vivant at large.

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