“The Starter” at FringeNYC 2015 at The Celebration of Whimsy Theater (Closed Tuesday August 25, 2015)

Written by Sean Murphy Based on “Platonov” by Anton Chekhov
Directed by Katie Falter
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

Sean Murphy has penned a new play “The Starter” based very loosely on “Platonov” an obscure work by Anton Chekhov, and being presented as part of the NY International Fringe Festival. The resemblance is not so much the story but the supposition, examining the egotistical, idealistic, selfish nature of a generation of twenty somethings as they encounter the truth about feelings and desire. The plot unravels as seven friends, some old, some new, gather for an impromptu dinner party. As in many plays that have preceded, the alcohol flows, sparks fly, dreams drown, love is lost and during the finale drinking game isolation and hopelessness are the winners and reverting to the past is the only hope of salvation. Serving up heaps of unhealthy, narcissistic, destructive choices by the youth of any generation at a table set with platefuls of denial and repressed feelings is nothing new.

What sets this production apart is the inspired writing and the litter of misfits assembled for the fierce festivities. Mr. Murphy’s dialogue is like a tennis match flinging comical barbs with lightning fast repartee, always within bounds, forcing the opponent to reach, stretch and dive for answers until they fault with a lie. Truth and honesty keep the game in play and there is no winner. The cast is well trained and breathes life into complex characters. Tori Hidalgo is a cold, cunning destroyer as Anna, confronting Harry Percy Sanderson (Parker) who constructs a disillusioned, confused everyman, lost in his own invention. As Gretchen, Mary Kate O’Neill envelopes oddball beauty emerging from caterpillar, too cocoon, too butterfly with a nuanced performance. Mr. Murphy as Trevor is centered, simple and hopeful, clinging to unrequited love. Lauren Friednash portrays an offbeat Sophie, a self-absorbed wannabe, like a spider catching its prey in her web of optimistic fantasy. Haley Jones creates the false façade of the perfect wholesome fiancé Jennifer with precision. Eric Folks masks a solid Stephen, concealing his bubbling turmoil and rage beneath a smooth, calm exterior.

No one survives the evening. All are casualties, some more than others, and when their wounds heal you can only imagine they will be ready for another battle, never learning the fragility of life and that waging war for personal gain, power and control, only results in the destruction of humanity. This is an engaging evening of theatre and a promising ensemble of thespians, deftly directed by the keen sense of Katie Falter.