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Off-Broadway Review: “Everything Is Super Great” at 59E59 Theaters (Through Saturday December 14, 2019)

Off-Broadway Review: “Everything Is Super Great” at 59E59 Theaters (Through Saturday December 14, 2019)
Written by Stephen Brown
Directed by Sarah Norris
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Loss looms large over four Texas residents in Stephen Brown’s “Everything Is Super Great” currently running at 59E59 Theaters. Nineteen-year-old Tommy (a sullen and hapless Will Sarratt) has lost his father, his brother, and he’s “not really allowed inside of an Applebee’s ever again.” Tommy’s mother Anne (a bellicose and overwhelmed Marcia Debonis) has lost her friends, her husband, one of her sons, and feels she is slowly losing Tommy. Tommy’s Starbucks coworker Alice (a rebellious and overburdened Lisa Jill Anderson) is losing her mother to the ravages of Alzheimer’s. And Tommy’s therapist Dave (an overzealous and lonely Xavier Rodney) loses, finds, and loses again his estranged girlfriend. Perhaps even more painful is the dramatic loss of “self” that each of these characters and their often-self-inflicted brokenness.

Given the extent of this collective loss and brokenness, sarcasm becomes palpable in the tile of Stephen Brown’s play. Clearly, everything isn’t super great for these four inter-related characters whose lives are like many others living cross the United States and the world. Loss permeates the vicissitudes of life. Broken relationships, family dysfunction, irreversible age-related illness, and loneliness insert themselves uninvited and unannounced into the lives of individuals and families. “Super great” dissolves into the realm(s) of the languorous.

Tommy’s mother is overbearing, possessive, and often inappropriate in her interactions with her son. Anne allows Tommy very little privacy and very little personal space. Tommy is full of anger and his mother’s behavior magnifies his “normal” adolescent angst. After setting a fire at his workplace Applebee’s, Tommy loses his job and is charged with a felony which is reduced to a misdemeanor after his mother “blasted into the cop station and was like, ‘It was an accident, he has problems, blah blah blah!’” Anne – without Tommy’s knowledge or permission – secures a former coworker at Walmart to counsel Tommy. Dave has an MFA in music therapy and has never had a client.

The narrative continues with Tommy’s interactions with Alice and his attempts to help her deal with her mother’s dementia and disappearance from her home. In all this action, playwright Stephen Brown works toward a resolution of his characters’ conflicts and a journey to a better place called super great. Under Sarah Norris’s sensitive direction, the ensemble works hard maintaining the authenticity and believability of their characters and allowing the plot to be successfully driven by their conflicts. The scenes are, unfortunately, uneven in both writing and presentation.

Predictably, all’s well that ends well for these four characters who begin to separate and individuate from one another. Tommy begins to face his brother’s disappearance with more maturity and his move with his mother to a new home bodes more healing and self-awareness. One wishes to know more about each character’s “background” and a more gradual revelation of Anne’s pernicious behavior.

Brian Dudkiewicz’s multi-purpose scenic design (Walmart, Starbucks, Tommy’s room, Alice’s home, and Dave’s office) are differentiated by Elaine Wong’s lighting design and Mari Taylor’s costume design.

It’s a good thing that sometimes all things work out for the best for some. To some extent, “Everything IS Super Great” confirms that optimism.


EVERYTHING IS SUPER GREAT

The cast features Lisa Jill Anderson; Marcia Debonis; Xavier Rodney; and Will Sarratt.

The design team includes Brian Dudkiewicz (scenic design); Elaine Wong (lighting design); Mari Taylor (costume design); Janet Bentley (sound design); and Sarnah George (prop design). The production stage manager is Alannah O'Hagan.

“Everything Is Super Great” runs at 59E59 Theaters (59 East 59th Street) through Saturday December 14, 2019. For further information and to purchase tickets, visit https://www.59e59.org/. Running time is 95 minutes without intermission.

Photo: Will Sarratt, Marcia Debonis in “Everything Is Super Great” at 59E59 Theaters. Credit: Hunter Canning.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Tuesday, December 3, 2019