nytheatre.com review by Frank Anthony Polito
March 12, 2007
At tonight's opening performance of Andrea, San Francisco-based writer/performer Allison Landa gave it her all. Too bad she only had a small audience to give it to—because the woman is hilarious!
Part stand-up comic, part lyric poet, Landa takes us on a journey based on the six months she spent working as a teacher in the Czech Republic for a paltry sum equal to $250 US dollars per month. After giving up the dreaded gig, Landa decides to stay on for a while and moves to Prague.
Enter Andrea—"crazy, psychotic, and surprisingly beautiful." A chain smoking ex-Bostonian with a fear of terrorists and purse-stealing Gypsies, Andrea lives with her cat in an apartment she can't afford. Which is why she needs a roommate.
She also needs an audience.
Anyone who's been to the theater knows the importance of the actor-audience relationship. This is even more apparent in the "one-person" show genre. The audience feeds the actor. Not just by laughing in the appropriate places. But just by being there! From the moment Landa walked on stage, I felt myself pulling for her, wanting her first foray on the New York stage to be a total success.
As Andrea, Landa does not merely imitate her former potential roommate's high-pitched yet gravelly delivery. She embodies it. As Allison, her humor is dry and sarcastic. Her jokes are full of specificity and wit, the kind that makes you laugh seconds after you've taken a moment to picture the images in your mind. ("The hedges in Prague were all cut crooked—like lesbian haircuts.")
Which is why I hope more folks have a chance to see this production. As no program or bio was provided, it's not clear whether Landa considers herself more of a writer or performer—or both. Originally written as her Creative Writing master's thesis, the writing of the piece is definitely strongest. In the hands of a more seasoned actor, the material might come across as being "better." But what makes the retelling of this event come to life is that Landa experienced it first hand. It also comes from her heart.
My only complaint is that at a mere 27 minutes (give or take), the piece is far from being "finished." When the lights faded, I anticipated a second act—"Andrea and Allison Take Prague by Storm," maybe?—not the curtain call. I felt like I was just getting to know this "crazy, psychotic, and surprisingly beautiful" person.
By whom I mean Allison Landa.