FIERCE Fresh Fruit this season

Review by Evan Meena

This season’s crop for the fresh fruit festival was a bounteous one. Leading the pack was Doug Devita’s The Fierce urgency of Now (special thanks to Lyndon Johnson for the title).

fierce

FIERCE finds us in a high-powered ad agency in modern times and takes us on what the Mad Men of the 60s have become. The same rules apply – no rules.

It’s the journey of Kyle, a young art director who finds himself in the middle of office affairs, politics, conspiracies, and other daily happenings. His on-again-off-again lover, Neil is – through reorganization of accounts – his boss, his best buddy, Meryl, looks like she is about to get in front of the pack thanks to the counter-charms of Kate, the epitome of ruthless bitter bitch boss, leaving Kyle “stuck” with Dodo… a Mad Woman from the Mad Men days.

Sounds like a soap opera? Well, it’s not. It’s a clever (with more than a few moments of brilliant) one act tome about how we choose to live our lives and the price we pay for succeeding (or failing) at it.

Devita’s book and director Dennis Corsi’s smart direction went hand-in-hand to hand us a rapid-fire, well-timed character study filled with terrific one-liners, deep and even tearful relationship moments, and sage wisdom for the texting generation. CJ Yeh’s amazing use of set coupled with Sam LaFrage’s sound might as well have been actual characters as their interaction to the plot and the players was some of the best I’ve seen on stage. It played like a television show in its editing people and production together.

Speaking of people, while Matthew Jellison’s Kyle seemed a little too casual and coarse in the office scenes (you can’t tell a VP to F**k Off THAT MANY times and stay hired), his moments with Dodo were sublime. Their opening salvos at each other, while combative, already opened our hearts to the unique relations that was coming – and when it arrived, one could not get enough. The tender moments between them (weathering Dodo’s illness, sage advice from an old salt to a young whipper-snapper, etc…) were a pleasure to behold. This was in no small part due to the excellent portrayal of the been-there-done-that characterization by Carole Monferdini as the last surviving member of the four martini lunch days in advertising. Ms. Monferdini, with little effort, became the only thing on stage with little more than a line ending in “darlin” or a tiny tilt of her coife. Devita had written their “love story” with great care, and that’s just how they delivered it.

The supporting players were all top notch. Steven Hauck was superb as Neil, the “nice” semi-closeted boss. His look and demeanor belied the ad agency milieu but he managed to inject just enough effete behavior to show us his “feminine” side. His polar opposite was an hilarious Teresa Kelsey as the boss commando Kate, her manish presence made her use of the C-word almost religious. She expertly gave us a bitter woman whose workaholic life made her the unexpected villain but still kept us laughing. Paloma Pilar could have vanished among these gray flannel crazies but her decision to play the role as a powerful forward thinker almost ignoring the expected tartness made her equally a standout.

You don’t need a google-search to know Doug Devita is a longtime power player in the off-off Broadway industry. With works like this, it will be easy to imagine him getting a “promotion.”

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