Performing Arts: Theater
January 25, 2015
The quaint, white performance space in 59E59 Theaters is splayed with painted black arrows spanning across its numerous doors. A suited man in a pair of dark shades stands facing towards us, exuding the aura of a bouncer – that is, until he picks up his cell and scolds his mother for calling him. Two men in yellow ponchos make a hurried rush back out of the space. Oh and there’s a sheet cake atop a red clothed table center stage. The oddities keep coming in Parallel Exit’s “Everybody Gets Cake.”

Though Parallel Exit has a noteworthy track record in theatrical storytelling, this New York premiere is a particularly non-linear amalgamation of tales, sketches, and personalities. The cast of three morphs into over 40 archetypes and characters spanning history; from a masked serial killer to a Shakespearean actor, Mother Theresa, and Hans-The Sneaky Nazi. Even the traditional curtain speech came with flare as Steve the Theater Cow made an appearance and the safety reminders were presented in song.

Under Mark Longeran’s keen direction, Joel Jeske, Danny Gardner, and Brent McBeth take the audience on a hilarious, wild ride where each transition proves more surprising than the last. At times it’s a ding – which we were warned could mean the shocking or heartwarming is about to unfurl. Other times a door swings open and an ecstatic voice begins with “HEY EVERYBODY!” followed by a random tidbit like “Einstein didn’t understand microphones,” or, “Piano players suffer from narcolepsy.”

A few recurring scenes offer us some familiarity. One comes in the brief presence of a serial killer in the midst of strange encounters – holding a knife, petting a kitten. Another comes in a looming arm that drugs and whisks off various characters. A key recurrent scene features an old man hobbling to a chair below a sign that reads “Visiting Hours 1:30-3:30pm,” often leaving unvisited. At one point he is thrown into a war flashback. Near the end, Steve the Theater Cow shoes up during his visiting hours and presents him a birthday card in a surprisingly touching moment, suddenly giving the cake some meaning.

Most memorable is the symphony of iPhones performed by a duo in tuxedos, swiping and tapping at their screens in a fury of rhythms with which we are all too familiar. Before long their score incorporates frantic texting, ridiculous selfie-taking, even phone call making. But then, a Novocain abuse PSA becomes the focus – complete with incomprehensible speaking and loss of limb control - reminding us there are more outrageous bits to be seen.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Jenny Thompson

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