Saturday, July 7, 2012

Fringe 2012 Review: BAD CONNECTIONS?

BAD CONNECTIONS? (a title which is, inexplicably, in all-caps) is a play written by Michael Levesque for Paul Cosentino, a one-man show featuring nine characters whose lives come together via various connections and conversations, culminating in a visit to a guru, in 1997 New York City (the setting, it seemed, mostly to avoid the post 9/11 feeling and to justify the presence of a payphone).  I am a terrible theatre student, because when I heard the play being described as being about “oneness,” my reaction was one of eye-rolling rather than eager nodding and snapping. Luckily, the strength of both script and performer proved lacking in pretension, instead full of sharply-observed “dialogue” and character moments.

Cosentino adroitly fills the shoes of all characters, from a pregnant black teenager to a hospitalized Italian great-grandfather, to a 56-year-old typical Upper West Side Jewish wife-type. He snaps from one character to the next, sometimes in monologue, sometimes in dialogue, occasionally literally tumbling into his next character. His physicality is captivating and his voice work is very good. Though some characterizations verge a bit on caricature (occasionally slightly offensively so), this does serve the purpose of keeping his characters distinct, particularly later on, when they begin to come together and interact at a more and more furious pace. The script, also, makes each character interesting and sympathetic enough that we can forgive some cliché and archetype. To emphasize the connection between characters, the scenes turn on a word, going from the mouth of one character to another. It’s a nice touch, though very “writerly.”

The connections begin to come together in a satisfying way; the writer’s repetition of there being “no coincidence” seems a little like an excuse, but it’s engaging enough not to really matter. One ending vignette gave us a dramatic note that felt unearned and off-kilter with the rest of the piece; the rest of the script is so good at implying actions and connections (one of its great strengths is mostly avoiding any of the clunkiness of introductory exposition in scenes) that I was left wishing that note had been equally well-implied (as it was, in fact, with the last line before the discovery) rather than melodramatically focused on. Some of the characters’ relationships could have stood some further development, (which may have contributed to the unearned feeling of that one vignette), but the play might have gone on forever in that case. These are actually small quibbles with the play, which is very good and skillfully woven.

Make a connection with BAD CONNECTIONS? It’s an intriguing story, told by nine intriguing voices.


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