Michael & Edie
nytheatre.com review by Di Jayawickrema
December 3, 2010
Michael & Edie is one of those plays where its crude description doesn't do justice to its true nature. What is set up as a love story between two wayward souls ends up being an unconventional life story about loss and hope and being young. As Michael says about Edie at one point, "The rhythms of [the play's] lines and meter" are lovely to behold.
Rachel Bonds's original script is heartbreakingly beautiful at best and witty, funny, and honest at worst. It's the story of Michael, played vulnerably by Matthew Micucci, who finds himself working in a chaotic bookstore alongside the remote Edie, played by Stephanie Wright Thompson, who entrances him at first sight. Thompson is also generally good and she delivers the best scene of the play in an incredibly poignant soliloquy where she imagines literature's great tragedies backward like a film reel being rewound so that they never happened. Hugh Morris's cool art installation sets the perfect whimsical tone to characterize the play with wire frames and cardboard cutouts to suggest disorderly piles of books. It's the perfect stage for the two main characters to run around and hide behind as they try to both confront and escape their lives.
Director Robert Saenz di Viteri and playwright Bonds invoke a particularly effective device where Michael frequently launches into beautifully poetic interior monologues imagining Edie's life—all of which turn out to be patently false. The contrast with the lyricism of his inner feelings for her and the fumbling, inarticulate interactions he has with her in reality feels very authentic to young infatuation. However, informing the real story of the play are Michael's depressive sister Sarah, played movingly by Jocelyn Kuritsky, and an enigmatic fellow named Ben, played by Jacob Wilhelmi. These two are the catalysts for the play transcending what could have been another story of two offbeat people falling charmingly in love. Granted, the play is still offbeat and charming, in the best sense—in one absolutely magical moment, the two leads throw flakes of white paper into the air and announce "It's snowing!"
I want to say Michael & Edie is "quirky" but that's a difficult descriptive to use without conjuring up an image of the overly precious—it isn't. This is an unexpected, truthful glimpse into life and my favorite kind of independent theatre. There is a sort of half-playful, half-wistful quality to the production that lends itself to an intimacy that would be lost on a larger stage, and is what makes off-off Broadway surprising and consistently worth it.