Volume 78 / Number 16, September 17 - 23, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Vincent Madero

In “Kidstuff,” Jessica Bates and Justin Blanchard stumble through adulthood.

Child’s play indeed

KIDSTUFF
Written by Edith Freni
Directed by Erica Gould
Wed.-Sat. at 8 p.m. through Sept. 27
The Kirk Theatre at Theater Row Studios
410 W. 42nd St.
$18; (212) 279-4200; ticketcentral.com

By Adrienne Urbanski

Centering on a grown-up woman still mooning over her high school sweetheart, Edith Freni’s new play is kid stuff indeed. While Eve may have chronologically hit the age of 30, she is still very much a girl of 17, unable to find any definite path or direction in life, pining for the boyfriend who cheated on her more than a decade ago, and moving across the stage with the self-conscious awkwardness of a girl still finishing puberty. Even the death of Eve’s mother seems to be eclipsed by the pain she still harbors from her adolescent betrayal.

The play opens with unemployed Eve hawking the family heirlooms she inherited from her mother’s death to score some much-needed cash. While anxiously waiting for an appraisal, she runs into her high school beau, Chet, who just happens to be buying an engagement ring at the very same shop. (Later, he reveals that the ring just happens to be for the girl he left her for.)

The storyline of Chet and Eve’s reconnection intersects with Eve’s visits to an eccentric therapy group, which bears an uncanny resemblance to a theater workshop as the group member’s sole activity seems to be reenacting the scenes of Eve’s betrayal with each group member portraying Eve with varying degrees of humorous desperation and absurdity. Although this scenario seems implausible, it cleverly displays for the audience the events that lead up to the dissolution of Eve’s sense of self worth without forcing the audience to become burdened with lengthy recounts. Parodies of Eve allow the audience to tolerate the cloying, self-indulgent moans of an absurdly self-absorbed and immature character. These scenes are the comic gold of the play, consisting of a New Age therapist/teacher and a love triangle between an overconfident egomaniac actor type (Vincent Madero), a neurotic, cake gobbling, girl woman (Sharon Freedman) and an over the top, insult spewing bitch (Cynthia Sylvia). The love torn trio comes to use the scenes of Eve’s life to explore their own misguided romantic failings, displaying perhaps the most advanced writing of the entire script.

We are also briefly taken to the funeral of Eve’s mother. When the family priest pays visit to the home to discuss the family’s loss over slices of Eve’s gooey homemade cake (baking elaborate cakes and mooning over her ex-boyfriend seem to be the sole uses of her time) Eve asks him not for consolation over her mother’s death, but rather asks him about the pain she still feels for her boyfriend, wondering if one event can really destroy an entire person’s future existence. (The priest responds by going in for more cake.)

Eventually Chet and Eve’s reunion leads to the consumption of too many beers and an impassioned trip to Chet’s pad for some impromptu sex in an attempt to re-ignite the passion of their teenage years. Unfortunately, Eve’s dream is shattered when the snarky-thief-from-high-school-turned-fiancée walks in.

Sarah Nina Hayon deserves accolades for her portrayal of Eve as she manages to imbue a somewhat unlikable character with enough realism and charm to evoke sympathy. The many laughs induced by the performance also seem to be more to the credit of an incredibly gifted cast, rather than a clever script. Through delivery and body language, the members of the therapy group extend the comic value past the script.

Much like its main character, the play has an adolescent feel, like a work that is still growing and finding itself. Eve is also fragmented as a character, and we are shown little about her life or past other than the torch she still carries for her lost beau. We are also given little explanation as to why the loss of her first boyfriend seems to take precedence over the many larger tragedies in her life. While “Kidstuff” is indisputably entertaining, it remains an incomplete work, showing a playwright with the potential, unlike Eve, for growth.

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