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Off-Broadway Review: “Dropping Gumballs on Luke Wilson” at A.R.T./ New York Theatre’s Mezzanine Theater (Through Saturday July 6, 2019)

Off-Broadway Review: “Dropping Gumballs on Luke Wilson” at A.R.T./ New York Theatre’s Mezzanine Theater (Through Saturday July 6, 2019)
By Rob Ackerman
Directed by Theresa Rebeck
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

“Dropping Gumballs on Luke Wilson” a new play by Rob Ackerman is based on the actual making of an ill-fated television commercial by AT&T that discredits the cell phone coverage of rival Verizon’s network. In that commercial, actor Luke Wilson (a convincing Jonathan Sale) stands in front of a Verizon network map covered with red dots to represent their coverage areas. The red dots start disappearing from the map as red gumballs begin to very slowly fall on Wilson’s shoulders until, at the end, he opens an umbrella to protect himself from getting plummeted by the final deluge of gumballs. Famed documentary director Errol Morris (a sedate but tyrannical David Wohl) had a different brainstorm when he sees Wilson wince in pain during one of the takes, after he accidently gets hit on the head by a hard gumball misguided by Rob (a competent but confused George Hampe) the young prop man. Mr. Morris proceeds to instruct the first assistant director Alice (a confident and thorough Ann Harada) to have the gumballs fall on Wilson’s head purposely without the umbrella, to which she objects but must do to keep her job. She then informs the young prop man who is morally opposed to hurting the famous actor and putting his union job in jeopardy when his senior prop man Ken (a committed Dean Nolen) walks off the job in fear of the penalties. All this as intern Jenny (an innocent but mindful Reyna de Courcy) looks on in disbelief as she witnesses the unscrupulous debacle.

One of the many problems that plagues this production is that there are almost as many platitudes strewn across the stage as gumballs, some more prevalent than others. The play does not have enough substance to address the endless workplace problems that erupt and challenge the employees morally and intellectually. The many takes become repetitive and boring even though each has a different twist and elevates the perplexity of the dilemma. This contributes to the feeling that the play goes on much longer than its seventy-five-minute length. Issues are established but never resolved leaving a void that is created by ignorance.

Director Theresa Rebeck keeps the action moving on the sleek, modern television studio set, created by scenic designers Christopher Swader and Justin Swader, but is undertaking turning a one trick pony into a three-ring circus. The fact of the matter is the characters are too shallow and once the gumballs drop, the play is over, left with nothing to say.


The cast includes Renya De Courcy, George Hampe, Ann Harada, Dean Nolen, Jonathan Sale, and David Wohl.

The “Gumballs” design team includes Christopher and Justin Swader (Scenic Designers), Mary Ellen Stebbins (Lighting Design), Tricia Barsamian (Costume Design), Bart Fasbender (Sound Design), Yana Biryukova (Video Design), Geoff Josselson, CSA (Casting Director) and Avery Trunko (Production Stage Manager).

“Dropping Gumballs on Luke Wilson plays at A.R.T./ New York Theatre’s Mezzanine Theater (502 West 53rd Street) through Saturday July 6, 2019 on the following schedule: Mondays through Thursdays at 7:00 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m.; and Saturday matinees at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are available at, or by calling the Box Office (Ovationtix) at 866-811-4111. Running time is 75 minutes without intermission.

Photo: (l to r) Dean Nolen, Reyna de Courcy, George Hampe and Ann Harada in “Dropping Gumballs on Luke Wilson.” Credit: Carol Rosegg.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Friday, June 21, 2019