Off-Off-Broadway Review: “Zamboni” at FringeNYC 2016 at The Steve and Marie Sgouros Theatre

Off-Off-Broadway Review: “Zamboni” at FringeNYC 2016 at The Steve and Marie Sgouros Theatre (Closed Saturday August 27, 2016)
Written by Sean-Patrick O'Brien
Directed by Leslie Burby
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

Jamie drives the Zamboni at the ice rink and loves his job. He is passionate about the results of his efforts, as his powerful machine shaves off the imperfections on the surface, sparsely spreads a stream of water that will freeze repairing any cracks and flaws, and then removes the excess water with a squeegee blade leaving a clean, smooth, glimmering veneer. Joseph Franchini brings Jamie to life in the new play “Zamboni” by Sean-Patrick O’Brien, being presented as part of the N.Y. International Fringe Festival, with a remarkably honest and vulnerable performance. Mr. Franchini fills his character with uncertainty, frailty, instability, and addiction all the while showing the strength to attempt to overcome temptations, change his inevitable destiny and search for a love he has never experienced. It is a performance that is not easy to watch but should not be missed. There is a supporting cast that is brilliant.

Lucy McMichael plays Jamie’s mother Gail with a hardened, defeated, and crumbling crust only to camouflage her fear, concern and unconditional love. Leeann is the love interest, played with sincere, honest conviction by Dawn McGee who fills her character with diffidence and altruism. Lauren Slakter gives Trixy a believable innocence that treads a fine line between curiosity and awareness. Store clerk Chloe is portrayed with just enough charm and peculiar behavior to provide a slight necessary comic relief. Mickey Ryan, Nick DiLeonardi and Dylan Martin Frankel round out the remarkable cast, giving excellent support with admirable unassuming performances.

It is difficult to recount the story without spoiler alerts. What can and should be said is that it is relevant, disturbing and troublesome to watch, but is told with such empathy that it succeeds in bringing attention to the problem rather than passing judgement. Deftly directed by Leslie Kincaid Burby each character embraces subtle nuance while remaining emotionally powerful. Mr. O’Brien is a fresh, new, young voice that hopefully will continue to be heard in a new generation of American playwrights.