The Great Recession @ Flea Theatre, New York

cast list
Brett Aresco, Felipe Bonilla, Eboni Booth, Louiza Collins, Greg Coughlin, Thomas Crawford, Jamie Effros, Katherine Folk-Sullivan, Andy Gershenzon, Robert Grant, Jake Green, Anna Greenfield, Jessy Hodges, Laurel Holland, Josephine Huang, Amy Jackson, Raul Sigmund Julia, Vella Lovell, Jonathan Marballi, Nick Maccarone, Dorien Makhloghi, Jonathan Marballi, Kate Michaud, Turna Mete, Heidi Niedermeyer, Reynaldo Piniella, Jessica Pohly, Morgan Reis, John Russo, Emily Simoness, Dominic Spillane, Sarah Ellen Stephens, Stephen Stout, Ariana Venturi, Ronald Washington, Chloe Wepper, Wilton Yeung, Marshall york

directed by
Adam Rapp, Michelle Tattenbaum, Ethan McSweeny, Davis McCallum, Kip Bagan, Jim Simpson
There’s a kind of paradoxically disparate unity to be found in The Great Recession, an evening of short plays currently playing at the Flea Theater in Soho. At times thrillingly timely and at others drably irrelevant, this compilation of plays by six of New York’s most popular up-and-coming writers is ultimately a fascinatingly flawed experiment.

As if contributing to a dramatic mixtape for our times, the six writers in question – Adam Rapp, Itamar Moses, Thomas Bradshaw, Erin Courtney, Sheila Callaghan, and Will Eno (listed in the order in which their plays are performed) – have contributed six plays as a response to the Flea’s call to create a short piece about the recession; the results are fairly diverse.

Rapp’s play, Classic Kitchen Timer, which starts the evening off with a well-considered bang, is an off-kilter, dystopian vision of our times, centering around a macabre game show featuring an insane Joker-style emcee (a chillingly maniacal Nick Maccarone) who challenges his guests, who seem to file in in an endless succession, to kill or be killed.
Also top-notch is Bradshaw’s New York Living, a fast-paced romp about theatre and sex in an era of economic downturn that features Bradshaw’s signature snappy dialogue and sharply-observed comedic situations.

Less successful are Fucked by Itamar Moses, featuring a whiny, cliched relationship dispute, and Recess by Sheila Callahan, which, centering on a group of starving artists in a futuristic world, favors distressingly abstruse symbolic flourishes to any attempt at dramatic narrative.

Somewhere in between are Severed by Erin Courtney, a charming, quirky look at the filming of a recession-centric documentary and Unum, a charmingly disjointed short play about corporations’ effects on our everyday lives.

The evening, in the end, is a grab bag. Each of the plays features a different director, but they come together to form a fairly cohesive unit in terms of subject matter and general approach. Still, as seems destined to be the case when bringing together six writers with such varied approaches to writing, there’s a similarly varied level of achievement here in terms of the plays as written that means some are ultimately more satisfying than others.

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