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Dear Broadway,/ My name is Kyle Sugarman. It is such a pleasure to meet you./ I am currently a sophomore at Harold Ferguson Senior High School just outside Fort Collins, Colorado. Home of the Mighty Panthers./ I am an honors student. I have a three-six./ I am also the play writer of my enclosed play which I am enclosing here to send to you . . . .My play is named Spacebar./ I am basically positive that you will find Spacebar to be the best play you've ever read./ Spacebar is a story about HUMANITY.— excerpt from Kyle Sugarman's letter to Broadway.
Willa Fitzgerald and Will Connolly (Photo: Hunter Canning)
Michael Mitnick's Spacebar at The Wild Project is about a 16 year-old Kyle Sugarman making a name for himself as a Broadway playwright. And though Mitnick sounds a few false notes here and there, it has a winning cast and an intriguing sci-fi spin.

The young playwright's dreams for his 456-page play about humanity are soon dashed by Broadway pundits. However, determined to see his name on a neon marquee, Kyle leaves his Colorado home town and heads to New York. There he meets a dizzy producer, Fancy Magee, who decides to mount his play at an Off Broadway theater. All seems well until some theatrical snags creep in during stage rehearsals. And then let's just say that more mayhem than theater is created.

Although this play-within-a-play can be charming as it unfolds, the real reason to see Spacebar is its fine six-member cast. Will Connolly ( Tony-nominated role for his Andrej in Once) is a convincing Kyle, projecting the right mixture of naivete and earnestness for his wet-behind-the-ears protagonist. Connolly is likely a decade or so older than his character, but has boyish good looks and Kyle's earnestness down pat.

The supporting actors are equally right. The protean Morgan Ritchie (Kate Burton's son!) steps into four roles: Kyle's deadbeat Dad (Fake) Alan, the two-hundred-and-twelve year-old Mortimer Pip, a New York City cab driver, and Weird Man. John Doherty does a suitably flighty job as Playboy McMannahan and Fancy Magee. Kudos also to Christopher Michael McFarland, who took over a quartet of roles —Alan, barkeep Captain Iditarod, and Craig— when John Ellison Conlee bowed out of the production. No complaints over Willa Fitzgerald's Jessica, the sassy captain of the girl's high school swim team and becomes Kyle's love interest. Fitzgerald clearly knows how to make her character come alive in both a sporty and romantic sense. Rounding out the cast is Ana Kayne, who plays the siren Esmerelda Happenstance and the actress Zdenka Kropacova with steamy heat. Even when the play falls short, this acting cadre execute their roles with brio.

The play's main problem is that its dialogue is overstuffed with references to showbiz, theater history, and literary lingo that don't always sync. Although its three settings —Fort Collins, Colorado, New York City, and space — add geographic diversity, it's difficult to leapfrog through the 1980's to 12 Years later, and finally 7,000 years later within a 90-minute time frame. Problematic too are the off-stage family characters that (Fake) Alan briefly mentions in his opening monologue but without sufficient details.

That said, Spacebar does sometimes capture the music of the spheres and the high hopes (and disappointments) of a sophomore high school student bent on making his magnus opus a hit on Broadway. Even though Mitnick needs to do more shaping of his characters and story line,as helmed by Maggie Burrows, there is a theatrical lift-off here.

Spacebar by Michael Mitnick
Directed by Maggie Burrows
Cast: Will Connolly (Kyle Sugarman), John Doherty (Playboy McMannahan / Fancy Magee), Willa Fitzgerald (Jessica), Ana Kayne (Esmeralda Happenstance / Zdenka Kropacova), Christopher Michael McFarland (Alan / Captain Iditarod / Craig), and Morgan Ritchie (Mortimer Pip/(Fake) Alan/Cabbie /Weird Man).
Sets: Dane Laffrey
Costumes: Bryce Cutler
Sound: Brandon Wolcott
Lighting: Jen Schriever
Stage Manager: Whitney Dearden
The Wild Project, at 195 East Third Street. Tickets: $18.
From 10/24/14; opening 10/27/14; closing 11/08/14.
Tuesday through Saturday @ 8pm; Sunday @ 7pm. Added performances on Saturday, 11/01 and Saturday, 11/0 8 @ 2pm..
Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission.
Reviewed by Deirdre Donovan based on press performance of 10/25/14
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