By Tulis McCall
Larger Than Life: The Supersized Plays is a celebration of new plays, produced by The 52nd Street Project, written by kids and performed by adults. Hmnnn – whatever COULD those kids have to write about? How’s about death, destruction, pain and corruption??? And that is just the First Act.
Oh don’t get me wrong – there are plenty of fuzzy feelings running around the stage as well. In other words – these kids, these playwrights, have plenty to say about life from all the same angles that an adult might have. We adults, after all, are merely older. We are in no way grown up. At least I’m not.
In Genny and Mark Avi Amon explores a father daughter relationship in which both parties are trapped by his responsibility to his work. In The Bad and the Good Leonel Perez literally pits the Devil against an angel and surprises us by bringing out the best and worst in both. Beyonce Thomas writes about dreams in The Wings and the D.J.? as well as the risks that we have to face in order to make them happen. Peanut Butter and Phones by Gage Simmons anthropomorphizes a cell phone and a large lump of peanut butter and proves that relationships are wherever we chose to see them. The Unfound Blanky is an epic tale by Lauren Amador-Cruz reminiscent of The Wizard of Oz in its breadth and depth as it examines loyalty and love. The Internet Is In Your Mind by Lily Kuzminski brilliantly takes the world of Apps and turns it on its head, reminding us that for these writers the Internet is a playground. Weird Friends by Ayman Musa is a little G.I. Joe and a little Neil deGrasse Tyson, the astrophysicist, blended into a tale of lost friends. Life’s Complicated by Emma Weinstein mixes the world of privilege with the world of the homeless and lets us watch as the twain try to meet. Two People In A Different Family by Derek Rey is a wild ride where two people exhaust one another with physical challenges until they are reduced to a truce on a pinky swear.
The themes are love and loyalty that save the day; challenge and disappointments overcome; death; hopelessness; partnership; courage; disappointment; madness; and family family family. You enter thinking that you will support these kids and leave knowing that it is a two way street. These writers see what older heads see. Because they are closer to the ground, however, they have a unique perspective that the good people at the 52nd Street Project nurture until the ideas become formed enough to hand off to actors and directors. The result is the the wall of age separation dissolves and we all end up feeling like the artists we are. Bravo indeed.
To quote the press release:
The 52nd Street Project was founded in 1981 by actor/playwright and 1994 MacArthur Fellow Willie Reale in response to a deepening need to improve the quality of life for New York’s inner-city children… The Project is about making children proud of themselves. The Project is not about teaching children to act, although they will learn to. It is not about teaching them to write plays, although they will learn that as well. What it is about is giving a kid an experience of success. It is about giving a kid an opportunity to prove that he or she has something of value to offer, something that comes from within that he or she alone possesses, something that cannot be taken away.
The adult performers are Jose Aguila, Lisa Benavides-Nelson, Jonathan Bock, Bobby Cannavale, Nehassaiu DeGannes, Bjorn DuPaty, Edie Falco, Ceci Fernandez, Carl Hendrick Louis, Mozhan Marnó, Bhavesh Patel, Carra Patterson, Joe Paulik, Mallory Portnoy, Annie Purcell, Jeanine Serralles, Joe Tapper and Frank Wood.
The adult dramaturge-directors are Chelsea Hackett, Korey Jackson, Garrett Kim, Sarah Krohn, Kareem Lucas, Rebecca Martinez, Alexandra O’Daly, John Sheehy, Jeremy Stoller and Emma Weinstein.
Avi Amon is composing original music for the show.
For information on the 52nd Street Project: 212.642.5052 or www.52project.org. Volunteers and donations are always welcomed.