By Holli Harms
So a hooker, a psychiatrist and cop walk off the page and into each others lives and BAM! we have SPIN OFF by Bernard Pomerance.
The “spin off” in television is, as we all know, a new show with one, maybe two, characters from an original series who get to leave that show and get a show of their own. They very often take with them the main objective, to solve a crime, just in a different local or through a different character’s point of view. The characters are usually stereotypes and stereotypes work so well in television, because they are a quick and easy way for us, the audience, to plug into a story.
But what if those characters, especially the lesser ones, wanted more? What if they wanted to become three dimensional living beings, breaking out of their one dimensional existence and finding a life to live? And what if they have to do this right away as the show they exist in is being canceled by the network and the reruns taken out of syndication, thus their existence will end completely?
This is the basis for Mr. Pomerance’s world premiere, SPIN OFF, now playing at The Riverside Theatre. His play is about identity, how we exist in our world with our prejudices – bigotry and racism. And he asks, “What makes us fully us?” “Our stories,” he surmises. The stories are the way to becoming for these characters; using the stories that the writers have left behind – the traces on the page of character background.
Televisions are set up on stage and we watch on them images of protesters in streets, and individuals beaten and bleeding. The play was written in 2003 and yet what it is talking about is even more relevant now. Uncanny and scary how it hits the nail on the head, getting at our paranoia of the immigrant at the exact shrieking pitch of today.
It is a lot to pack into two hours. The layers of the play will have you considering and reconsidering existence – yours and others and the importance of the images we allow into our brains.
The director, Ron Canada, moves this layered onion at a pace meant to keep us on our toes. But tippy-toes as not to disturb the imprisoned television souls all played so perfectly by this wonderful ensemble.
One of the character’s announces “TV is the American Church.” And so it is. A place of worship where the images before us meant to educate, inform, move, and entertain, have a power that we often take for granted.
This is a smart play, with smart actors and director, telling us the messy story of us.
With: Kevin Rico Angulo, Thomas Hildreth, Tricia Mancuso Parks, Megan McQueen, Chad Restum and Najla Said.
Scenic designer is Paul Smithyman; costume designer is Matsy Stinson; lighting designer is David Shocket; sound designer is Sean Hagerty. Producing consultant is Madeline Austin. Composer of “Spin Off Theme” is Jack Benedict. Choreographer is Sarah Weber-Gallo. Singer/Co-Composer of “Yara’s Theme” is Ann Osmond along with musician/Co-Composer Dennis Yerry. Production Stage Manager is Carey Campbell.
The Riverside Theatre, 91 Claremont Avenue, New York, NY
Runs through October 13 on the following schedule: Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8:00, Saturday and Sunday matinees at 3:00.
Tickets: $40 adults, $25 seniors/students, $20 previews, $20 Early Bird Special through 9/3.
Buy tickets: http://www.spinofftheplay.com, 212/870-6784
Show’s website: http://www.spinofftheplay.com
Running time: 2 hours
Presented by: Joe Campanelli, Susan Canada, Ron Canada, Creative Women New York, Carrie Schoenfeld and Sternman Productions