Review: “The Straights” at JACK
Review By Anthony J. Piccione
OuterStage’s Main Correspondent
The past couple of years have seen a proliferation of new plays being written and produced attempting to capture the essence of what it means to be a Millennial adult in America. Of course, a big part of this is because so many of us are finally coming of age and entering prominent positions in this industry, and it likely won’t be long before we see more Gen Zers changing the industry themselves. Recently, I had the chance to attend the opening performance of playwright T. Adamson’s new play, which seeks to be the latest successful attempt to dramatize what it means to be a 20-something year old in the modern era.
Staged at the Obie-winning JACK in Brooklyn, The Straights is a mostly humorous and endearing study of Millennial adults living in present day America, and how they deal with issues of drugs, sex, friendship, and more. While on a road trip throughout Middle America, Phoebe and Nina meet new friends along the way, while simultaneously exploring their own relationship and the differences they have with one another. The play starts off leaving you with the impression that it will be an entertaining but cliched comedy, but as it delves further into the dynamic between these two characters – which is ultimately the heart of the play – we see more of what makes these characters human, as opposed to stereotypes, and it is in these moments when we start to not only laugh along with them, but sympathize and identify with. While the play doesn’t always stay focused on that key relationship, at its own expense, the moments where it does are so poignant and memorable that they make the play worth seeing, in addition to the more humorous moments of which there are plenty.
Will Detlefsen does a fine job at staging the play, and bringing this story to life as director. The scenic design – complimented nicely at each moment by Marika Kent’s excellent lighting design – is fairly minimalistic, but the set pieces that are used help set the atmosphere of the play perfectly. I particularly liked the sign toward the end that said “sorry, we’re open” to add to the play’s humor. In the background, the video projections also help at displaying the locations of each scene.
Yet the highlight of the production is clearly its very talented ensemble, particularly the performances of its two leads. Mary Glen Fredrick’s portrayal of Nina stands out for most of the show, as she manages to depict a young adult obsessed with selfies and Instagram in a manner that is humorous without being too stereotypical. However, by the time we reach the play’s climax, it is Jennifer Paredes’s emotional monologue as Phoebe that steals the show, and the final conversation between the two overshadows all else as the most thought-provoking and relatable moment of the whole show.
Indeed, this mostly engaging dramedy is bound to be relatable to many attendees, not just for Millennials, but arguably for anyone who has been in a tumultuous friendship or relationship that is difficult to let go of. It’s worth noting that the play runs approximately two hours, and perhaps an intermission in-between would have been nice, but nonetheless, those two hours are still worth your time.
“The Straights” stars Jennifer Paredes, Mary Glen Fredrick, Neo Cihi, William Thomas Hodgson, Emily Shain, Lisa Ramirez, Tony Castellano, Cat Crowley & Boscoe Barles.
“The Straights” is written by T. Adamson and directed by Will Detlefsen, featuring associate producer Christian Bufford, production stage manager Sara Minisquero, associate director Michael-Anthony Souza, assistant director Kalina Ko, scenic designer Corey Umlauf, costume designer Sarah Lawrence, lighting designer Marika Kent, sound designer Steven Leffue & video designer Tyler Isaacson
“The Straights” runs at JACK, located at 18 Putnam Ave, Brooklyn, NY, from December 5th-21st. For more information, please visit www.thestraightstheplay.com.