Thursday, August 12, 2010
The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side
(photo: Larry Cobra)
Returning to the NYC stage after an earlier successful run, The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side tells a tale of a poly-amorous foursome led by an ersatz Che Guevera wannabe, Billy (James Kautz). His housemates/lovers include Wyatt (Matthew Pilieci), Dawn (Mandy Nicole Moore) and Dear (Sarah Lemp). Dear and Wyatt run a vegan restaurant on the street level of the building in exchange for free rent of the apartment. Dawn was accumulated by the three others when living on the street, singing songs for tips. She continues this as the group's only source of cash. Billy's brother Evan (Nick Lawson) turns up for a visit, bringing an added level of chaos to the proceedings.
The story is ultimately a bit of Rent retold when their landlord/benefactor Donovan (Malcom Madera) shows up to announce he's sold the building. They have 2 weeks to move out. Presented in three (long) acts, playwright (and director) Derek Ahonen hedges his bets as to whether this play is a political statement, demonstrated by Billy's revolutionary and communistic tenets of equality and freedom from class structure. Or is it a farce? The plot includes ridiculous encounters, such as Evan's first meeting of Dear, Dawn and Wyatt as the latter three exit a shower menage a' trois naked, Wyatt fully erect. Or is it a satire? Billy talks at length of a revolutionary group in Mexico, in which his involvement made him an assassination target.
Since I'm not sure after an almost three-hour performance, the weakness is in the writing.
The performances are fully committed and admirable. Mr. Kautz' addicted and alcoholic Billy is as manic and earnest as any pseudo-revolutionary I might imagine. Mr. Pilieci's Wyatt is long on passion (as it were) but maybe just a bit short on brains. Ms. Lemp's Dear is the coolest head among the four, trying to mother her lovers into well-meaning actions.
Mr. Ahonen's direction keeps things moving, though his own script drags the pace from time to time. I could almost smell Al Schatz's stale LES apartment, piled up with its collected detritus and trash.
The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side closed on August 9.