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A CurtainUp Review
The Plank Project by Elyse Sommer

I don't cry. I save it for when I'm acting
--- Katrina who was a "principal dance in the American Ballet Theater" until her knees "fell off."
Plank Project Cast
The Plank Project Cast
The versatile sextet adroitly switching from their roles as members of a theatrical troupe, slily named the "Falaparte Theatre Company" and the citizens of the town of Plank, Washington may not be quite ready for Broadway. On the other hand, at $15 a ticket, these talented actors, playwright Jeff Whitty (that's as in witty) and director Erik Sniedze offer a budget friendly, laugh-out-loud entetertainment value.

If the title sounds vaguely familiar, that's entirely intentional. The Plank Project is a parody of the by now much produced The Laramie Project, the current documentary hit, The Exonerated and other high-minded plays falling within the documentary play genre.

The town of Plank 's main claim to fame is that one of its citizens, Abby Storch, an 1100 pound recluse with a penchant for wearing dresses, took a disastrous tumble down a well. And so the Falaparte company's director (Mike Doyle) who sounds like a cross between Roman Polanski and Moisés Kaufman, disperses his minions to this modern day Grover's Corners to collect the Plankians' recollections of Abby.

It is the quick as a wink shifts from actor-interviewers to towns people that make for the fun. These include the mayor, a high school drama teacher, a part-time Avon sales representative and an ex-cafeteria employee. The actors are marvelously in sync capture the high jinx humor of Whitty's goofy characters. If I had to pick one standout it would be Jenn Harris, but then again Lisa Jolley is also hilarious, and so is. . . as you can see, it really is impossible to pick a star out of this constellation.

Director Sniedze keeps the tempo in high gear and simple with a set design by Dawn Robyn Petrlik that's bare bones -- but bare bones are all that's required. Whitty has cleverly structured his script to be played straight through but with not one but two highly amusing and well placed intermission scenes.

As with any spoof involving broad comedy, it's hard for a little play like this not to fall prey to inevitable comparisons to a Saturday Night Live skit and when all is said and done, The Plant Project goes on for at least ten minutes longer than it should in its eagerness to be seen as a play rather than extended comedy sketch.

Unless The Plant Project wins enough attention to extend its run, you have only a couple of weeks to catch it. Located as it is in the East Village, there are endless opportunities for pre or post show dinners as affordable as the show.

The Laramie Project
The Exonerated

Written by Jeff Whitty
Directed by Erik Sniedze
Cast: Nat DeWolf, Mike Doyle, Saidah Arrika Ekulona, Jenn Harris, Lisa Jolley, Matthew Lawler.
Production Design: Dawn Robyn Petrik
Lighting Design: Eric C. Bruce
Running time: 1 hour and 15 minutes, without intermission
Kraine Theatre 85 East 4th Street ( 2nd/3rd Avenues) 212-206-1515
1/13/03-1/31/03; opening 1/16/03
Monday-Friday at 8pm -- $15.00
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer based on 1/16/03 performance
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