Theatre East Delivers a Needed Laugh

Review by Domenick Danza

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Theatre East’s 5×5 Drama Series is in its fifth year of opening the walls of their theatre and bringing their productions into the five boroughs of NYC. In an effort to keep this tradition alive during the Coronavirus pandemic, their production of The Dead Can Zoom is available on line. Written by Dan O’Neil and directed by Judson Jones, this short play is witty and charming. The performances are all sharp and stunning. Theatre East has clearly put a lot of effort into making this new medium work for them. The production is smooth, and the timing of the actors comes across flawlessly. This is a production worth watching.

Madam C (played by Chrysi Sylaidi) is holding a séance session via Zoom. Her clients, Cheri (played by Debra Wassum) and Joe (played by Ben Dawson), are eager to get started. Joe pays the full $75 fee by Venmo before the session starts. Cheri is hesitant, so Madam C allows her to pay half up front and the other half at the end of the session, based on her satisfaction.

The first spirit contacted is Petra (played by Christa Kimlicko-Jones). She speaks Czech, so only Madam C understands her. Joe is doubtful, but Cheri is very impressed. Cheri wants to contact her departed mother. She needs to know if her mother received the card and fruit basket of Edible Arrangements that Cheri sent before she passed. Cheri’s departed sister Meg (uncredited) comes through instead. Cheri seems satisfied, yet Joe is not. He questions Cheri’s belief. Madam C recognizes Joe from somewhere else. He admits his true objective for attending the Zoom séance, which sends Madam C into a trance. The background of Joe’s screen begins to change. Suddenly there is a knock at Joes apartment door. He gets up to answer it and never returns.

This cast is fully committed, making this play a joy.

Chrysi Sylaidi is mesmerizing as Madam C. She fills her space with energy, and brings her focus directly to the camera. Ben Dawson plays Joe’s skepticism with charm and vim. He is genuinely disturbed when the background of his Zoom screen starts to change. This is an important turning point of the story, and Mr. Dawson skillfully pulls it off. Debra Wassum is delightful as Cheri. She is eager to believe in the powers of Madam C and is overjoyed at getting her money’s worth from the session. Christa Kimlicko-Jones voices Petra “channeled” by Madam C. Her vocal characterization are distinct and humorous. She creates the perfect balance for the antics in the action.

The Dead Can Zoom will definitely give you the laugh you need after another day of pandemic gloom. It has an easy and enjoyable twenty-minute running time. Click on this link to watch the production: https://www.facebook.com/TheatreEast/videos/2624894547838959/.

For more information about Theatre East, check out their website: http://theatreeast.org/. This is a company worth getting to know.

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