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A CurtainUp Review
Miles For Mary

Oh my god. Does anybody speak in this room without speaking to each other like we're students? You're all speaking to us like we're kids in your class. . .—┬áKen
milesformary Stephanie Wright Thompson, Marc Bovino, Michael Dalto, Stacey Yen, Joe Curnutte (Photo: The Mad Ones)
Anyone who's ever been in a school office will immediately recognize the verisimilitude of the set created for The Mad Ones' Miles for Mary now at Playwrights Horizons. Metal file cabinets, old-fashioned computers, stacks of cheap plastic chairs, inspirational posters that line the walls and most importantly, the green linoleum on the floor and the bright florescent lights on the ceiling are typical of high school offices during the late 80s. The addition of a stationary bicycle, a deflated basketball and a hoop over the door tells us more specifically that this is the office/lounge of the phys ed department.

And anyone who has ever been at a faculty meeting will immediately recognize the characters sitting around a folding table as high school teachers: Sandra (Stephanie Wright Thompson), David (Michale Dalto), Rod (Joe Curnutte), Ken (Marc Bovino) and Julie (Stacy Yen); also Brenda (Amy Staats), heard via the telephone as she is unable to join the rest because of injuries incurred during an accident the past summer. Their passive-aggressive digs, their pettiness, their socially correct hypocrisy are all dead giveaways.

Although their affect might make one think the teachers are planning some world-shattering event, they are actually discussing the upcoming Garrison High School annual Miles for Mary Telethon. They cover such topics as budget, theme, programming and phone training, but the event is not nearly as important as the interactions of the teachers who are planning it.

Ken and Julie have an uneasy marriage. David, the temporary head of the committee, is resented by Ken, who thinks he is patronizing to everyone, but most especially, Julie. Rod, the alpha male, is not too bright, and makes his points mostly in irrelevant outbursts. Sandra is filled with ideas she believes in much more than the others. Brenda is having a hard time asserting authority over the phone.

The main comedic element lies in our pleasure of watching grownups behave like children and intelligent grownups behave like fools. The main dramatic element is anticipation of the blowup we are sure will eventually occur. Certainly, under the capable direction of Lila Neugebauer, this is ensemble acting at its best. Each actor knows exactly who he or she is and how to behave within the group.

The problem is that with nothing really at stake— no important problem that has to be resolved, no major conflict beneath the bickering — this staged meeting eventually becomes as boring and endless as such meetings are in real life.

If the teachers at Garrison High School seem more interested in airing their ideas about the telethon than the actual telethon, surely the audience is even less involved with the event. Nevertheless, much of the teachers' bickering is quite funny. The fact that many in the audience at the performance I attended did find the play entertaining is the triumph of style over substance.

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Created by The Mad Ones
Directed by Lila Neugebauer
Cast: Marc Bovino (Ken); Joe Curnutte (Rod); Michael Dalto (David); Amy Staats (Brenda); Stephanie Wright Thompson (Sandra); Stacy Yen (Julie)
Scenic Design: Amy Rubin
Costume Design: Asta Bennie Hostetter
Lighting Design: Mike Inwood
Sound Design: Stowe Nelson
Production Stage Manager: John C. Moore
Running Time: 1 hour 40 minutes, no intermission
Playwrights Horizons' Peter Jay Sharp Theater (416 West 42nd Street)
From 1/11/18; opening 1/22/18; closing 2/25/18
Tuesdays through Fridays at 7:30 PM, Saturdays at 2 & 7:30 PM and Sundays at 2 & 7PM
Tickets: $20-$65,
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Jan. 20, 2018

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