Written by Nick Raio
Directed by Michelle Kristine Best
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited
It is difficult to categorize Nick Raio’s “Shelia and Angelo” currently running at FringeNYC 2016. The play defies categorization. It is neither comedy nor drama, nor is it some amalgamation of the two genres. To compare it to anything with a serious dramatic intent would be insulting to the effort. One wonders why Mr. Raoi wrote this play and why he would choose to produce it. One further wonders why it could possibly have been accepted into the FringeNYC 2016 Season. It is offensive from beginning to end and is no more than a wobbly series of hackneyed jokes strung together with the hope that a story about a dying spouse might somehow salvage the mess.
When a play begins with a septuagenarian couple enjoying multiple orgasms because the husband took his “new vitamins” (think ED medication) and has to make a visit to the Emergency Department because the “four-hour” side effect has kicked in, one knows the best choice would have been to exit the theatre. Choosing to remain exposes the audience member to ninety minutes of sexist and ageist “humor” none of which has any purpose or in any way advances a plot – a plot which does not even exist. There can be no plot without believable characters with conflicts that are authentic and engaging.
How does one care for a wife with end-stage lymphoma who chooses not to tell her husband of over forty years that she is terminally ill, yet she cannot trust him to play cards at the Retirement Community Center? And how does one care for a husband who flirts with the woman in his Florida Retirement Community who is a “serial spouse killer” – boasting of ending her mates’ lives “with a smile on their faces?” And how can a playwright introduce a character who, once she receives her death diagnosis, proceeds to bargain with the God she has had no interest in heretofore?
To these queries, add how one could possibly care for a cadre of stock characters who spout senseless lines from the comedy eras of 1950s and 1960s that were not even funny then? The program “warns” the audience that “Sheila and Angelo” “deals with mature themes.” Unfortunately, there is not one mature moment in Mr. Raio’s play.
Actors need to exercise their craft and kudos to the cast of “Sheila and Angelo” for committing themselves to this project. This critic, however, will not mention any of their names here. As disturbing as the play is, perhaps even more unsettling is the evidence the audience actually found the piece funny – well, except for the obnoxious patron who texted throughout the performance from the front row.
The staging by Michelle Kristine Best is at best amateurish and puerile. There is nothing the remainder of the creative team could do to raise the level of this play to any form of acceptability so they, too, shall remain nameless. If this review possibly motivates the reader to secure a ticket to this play, the reader is out of luck – the show has been fully sold out for its entire run.