Off-Off-Broadway Review: “Anonymous, Anonymous” at FringeNYC 2016 at the Kraine Theatre

Off-Off-Broadway Review: “Anonymous, Anonymous” at FringeNYC 2016 at the Kraine Theater (Closed Thursday August 25, 2016)
Written by Jason Sofge
Directed by Jason Sofge and Michael Melkovic
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

“The play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King.” – William Shakespeare, “Hamlet,” Act II, Scene 2.

If a play has no playwright, is it a play? If a playwright’s play is entitled “Anonymous, Anonymous,” is he or she really a playwright? When is any play finished? When it has a working title? When the playwright fulfills all the requirements in Aristotle’s “Poetics?” Perhaps only when it has been published and produced? Perhaps a play is a play only when it is being conceived? Playwright Jason Sofge explores these and many other questions about his craft in his new play “Anonymous, Anonymous” currently running at FringeNYC 2016.

Mr. Sofge seduces his audience into his presumed play-within-a-play throughout its hour and ten-minute length hoping its members will stay with him and his talented cast of characters as they explore the convention time after time, trick after trick, twist after turn, ending where it begins and enjoy being pushed and pulled through time and space only to wonder where they have been and why they have been there. It is a risky business for any playwright to undertake.

William Shakespeare’s Hamlet’s ruse to trick his uncle (who is perhaps his real father – but that is yet another critical conundrum) works because his play-within-a-play has a purpose, serves its purpose, comes to an end, and the tragedy itself moves forward. In “Anonymous, Anonymous” the convention continues to collapse in upon itself too many tines to maintain a significant level of interest in the piece. Once the audience is in on the “trick” – which occurs early on in the play – they begin to grow weary and, despite Mr. Sofge’s apparent lack of interest in dramatic arcs, fourth walls, and cathartic resolutions, the audience begins to beg for a bit of a decent dénouement.

To his credit, Mr. Sofge has created interesting characters for his playwright Dan’s (Dustin Charles) magnum opus including his lost love Natalie (Kristin Wetherington) and the cast of his plays that move between years of writing, production, re-writing, and reflection. Under Mr. Sofge’s and Michael Melkovic’s direction, the ensemble cast does its best to pull the whole thing off and are convincing as the actors auditioning for and performing in the play not yet written. Nick Westemeyer, Dereks Thomas, Tony Del Bono, and Nathan Larkins (who is on stage the entire time!) round out the cast.

“Anonymous, Anonymous” continues at the Kraine Theatre in the East Village through August 25, 2016.