Climbing four flights of stairs to get to the Access Theatre [sic!] sets the expectation bar rather high for The Weiner Monologues presented by The Factory on a short run in Tribeca. That said, the rich material of Anthony Weiner’s colossal fumbling in the public square suggests a fun evening ahead though, one might argue, it’s hard to improve on the original script.
Let’s review: Weiner is the seven-term congressman who sent pictures of his junk to women he’d not met. He got caught. He lied, denied, and presented himself as victim. Then he faced up, sort of, and resigned. Undaunted by that humiliation—in fact unabashed-–he opts to run for mayor of New York City. Again he is caught sexting with women he doesn’t know and finishes the race in fifth place. Well, you know the story.
This material, flush with opportunity and rife with hubris, inspired John Oros and Jonathan Harper Schlieman to mold that tale into a Greek-ish tragedy. (Weiner the ‘tragic hero’ battered by The Chorus). The two introduce the production with predictable boner jokes – “it’s long…it’s hard…it’s uncut” – strangely winning, perhaps because these two young men are.
A few columns define Norihito Moriya’s very basic stage, and a scrim holds the center, working as both a curtain and a projection screen. Projected there we see Peter Lawford introducing Marilyn Monroe to sing Happy Birthday to JFK; we see Fred and Ginger dancing; and Rocky Balboa training, and more. The rights for this usage aside, the effect is a bust. Sure, seeing the real Marilyn reminds us of randy politicos past and it is a way to get Liana Wendy Sarapas asour Marilyn on stage, but really that’s all. Fred and Ginger dance and the Chorus does too. Weiner ‘runs’ for mayor, and Rocky runs on a beach. Perhaps it’s just too literal.
The most entertaining moments in the script, which producers’ notes tell us rely on “found text,” have the Chorus battering the candidate in the press scrum with Weiner/weiner jokes and loaded questions. Regrettably, this is played with eye-rolling smugness by the Press/Chorus.
Much is made of the intent here to “penetrate the issues of identity and meaning in our post-post-modern era.” In other words, technology underwrote Weiner’s tragic fall. The cast and crew work the crowd before curtain to get our smart phones enabled to receive ‘updates’ throughout the production—well intentioned, maybe even a good idea, if under delivered.
The Chorus does a lot of dancing, and choreographer Jillian Stevens is the standout dancer as well. She moves her people in-out-up-down with skill. Whenshe is dancing in the crowd, you watch her.
In terms of acting, only P. Tyler Britt stands out. The material is very broad, so, bringing some heft to small moments is all the more remarkable. He does that. Devin James Heater plays Weiner. He is way too handsome and appealing for the part, on top of which he captures none of Weiner’s edge and arrogance. Of course, that is the curse of playing an actual person the audience knows.
Everyone in the cast and crew except, apparently, the costume designer, Caitlin Cisek, has a Hunter College affiliation, and, while Hunter may have a distinguished theater program, The Weiner Monologues does have the feel of “let’s get Uncle Jack’s barn and put on a show” about it: exuberant, to be sure; a tad naive; a little hokey; and perhaps even an opportunity missed.
The Weiner Monologues is at the Access Theater, 380 Broadway@White Street. Performances at 8:00 p.m. nightly through November 10, with 2:00 p.m. matinees on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are available at the door or through theweinermonologues.brownpapertickets.com. Runtime is 90 minutes with no intermission.