Why Infectious Opportunity Was So Good

I started my Fringe Festival this year standing outside the Player’s Theater for twenty minutes as the sidewalk slowly filled with actors, playwrights, producers and directors that I would DIE to work with. Each minute brought another facebook friend that I don’t know well enough In Real Life – and they were standing there buzzing with excitement for Nosedive’s latest. This was a crowd not of Audience, but of Practitioners, people who’ve been up to their elbows in theatrical clay every time I’ve seen them. These are my people.

I’m going to tell you a few reasons why this play was so good FOR ME.

1) NOSEDIVE. These guys have been producing for ten years, often eschewing beauty and polish in order to challenge the way we normally tell stories. Just as things get rolling, James Comtois would often stop and stutter the action, just to… look at ideas? Or sometimes to fuck with us? All of the above. I’ve always rolled my eyes at “punks”, the gorgeous thin people with eyeliner and safety pins and mohawks, because I was one of them in high school, and they’re full of shit. Nosedive are the true spirit of punk – ugly, earnest, stinky and subversive.

The great leap (and I’m not arguing “forward” here) is that this play just moves through, as if the really punk decision is to ignore the punk they’ve done before. No point in getting in the way of the story, they fly through this one. This is high and tight, not a second of wasted time in the script or the direction. I’ve often wondered if Pete Boisvert and James Comtois were artistically as compatible as they are personally, and this show proves that this is a pitch perfect marriage.

2. Pete Boisvert as Director. There are a lot of things a director is responsible for, but let me talk about the stuff I love that he alone is responsible for. There are seven or eight stage pictures that hang in my mind. The manager facing upstage as his meal ticket admits, from a crumpled position directly upstage center, that his life is a lie. The writer, about to enter the worst moment of his life, wandering upstage from SR to SL, as his conscience takes him by the hand to lead him Cross and Down Right. A party that seems to fill the whole stage, couches and bars and groups of people – when it’s actually one set piece and five actors. I was trained in musical theater, stage pictures were a big part of my foundation, and this punkrock leadsinger of a director suddenly busted out a stretch of intense and powerful bits of theatricality.

I finally got to see a Nosedive piece in a space that fits Pete’s vision. It was fantastic to see him get a chance to exercise his full arsenal of abilities.

3. David Ian Lee. I’m always frustrated by our generations commitment to verisimilitude, as if heightened reality is dishonest. David has, in the past, terrified me with his commitment to truth in performance, and his unwavering need to have his characters *liked*. Honestly, in his own play “Sleeper”, he came onstage choking, and I thought I would have to run out of my seat and give him mouth-to-mouth.

In this play, David committed fully to the character in this play. The guy is an empty shell of ambition and manipulation, and David played it to the hilt, utterly truthful to the antics and nonsense that I know he felt were deeply unattractive. It’s the most ego-less performance I saw in the entire Fringe Festival, and the place was LOUSY with fantastic performances.

4. Jessi Gotta – Again, I’ve been watching Jessi from the audience for a while now, and she has always had a powerful sense of theatricality, mixed with the too-pretty-to-be-tough girl chip on her shoulder. I swear, I don’t mean this to be absurd, but it’s tough to be a young beautiful woman and to still deal with the world honestly. It’s gotta be like being a jackpot winner, only the lottery was 100% genetic.

This performance was utterly subordinate to the script while still being completely intoxicating to watch. Her character is the soul of a show, a show that’s arguing against its protagonist even having a soul. Her every move is captivating, and the shifts from the character in the movie to the character in the play were so small and so specific, it was breath-taking.

5. Supporting Cast. Becky Comtois made me cry when her heart was broken by the teacher she had a crush on. Daryl Lathon destroyed me on the plane to LA. I credit Pete and James with much of this, even though I know the cast was all Nosedive regulars, but they crafted the piece to use each person like a woodworker looks at router bits.

Now, this is one person’s opinion, and it’s important to note that almost everyone in this show is either a friend of mine, or a very, very good friend of mine. I could point out that I haven’t liked everything they’ve done, and could even link to my blog where I posted a review saying one of their shows wasn’t very good, but that doesn’t matter. The fact is, I’m biased, utterly.

But I’m also invested. Anyone who has brothers or sisters knows, when they act like assholes nobody is more ashamed of them than their own family. I absolutely hate it when I see my friends in a play that I don’t like, and I really wish we lived in a world where we could talk about what we like and don’t like without worrying about it too much.

So this was one of the best theatrical experiences of the year for me. A thousand times better than Sleep No More, which I kinda hated. And I suspect that  a lot of that is because these are people that I want to succeed, so when it happens, as it most definitely did this last time, it makes me that much more happy.