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boxplay

nytheatre.com review by Edward Elefterion
August 11, 2012

There were about a dozen people in the audience for the first performance of boxplay, two of whom worked at the venue, and we were treated to a production that easily deserves to sell out.  If you’re interested in clever, fun, funny, compelling theatre, get your ticket because if this production is neglected it’d be the shame of the festival. 

I can’t tell you about the plot without ruining your experience so I’ll stick to the barest marketing essentials: a man wakes up in a box (a white square on the floor), is visited by other people and slowly pieces together who, what, where and why he’s there…and what to do about it.  The audience plays a role, too, as does the larger box of the theatre and the even larger box of the unseen, offstage building.  It’s Kaspar Hauser meets sci-fi meets reality TV (theatre in this case, thankfully) meets absurdism 101 and it never ceased to surprise and delight me during its 75-minute run time. 

Boom! company is here from Seattle and I wish they’d stick around.  I’ve been directing for two decades in NYC and teaching at the university level for a dozen years…I’ve seen and worked with a lot of young actors.  Boom! company is a unique band of young professionals, any of whom I’d work with in a heartbeat. 

Playwright/director Steven Ackley’s work is strong and simple in both disciplines.  Other than the ending, which felt too pat and cheapened the work that led up to it, the production is well thought out and carefully crafted.  The entire cast is confident and appealing, subtly combining a sense of fear with a sense of humor.  The focus of the production is Joshua Williamson who plays the Man (called “1” in the program).  He’s everything you want in a leading man, not the least of which is that he can actually act.  But he’s in great company: Elissa Joy Eskridge, Josh Sponberg, Conner Neddersen, and Angus Maxwell all work towards the same goal of creating a mysteriously layered world of shifting identity, and doing it with a light touch. 

The design of the space by Angus Maxwell and Steven Ackley is ingenious.  So simple but used to great effect.  Amy Escobar and Steven Ackley designed iconic and at times disturbing costumes with an intelligent use of color.  Angus Maxwell's lighting was so simple (and simply integrated) that I almost forgot it was being done live, in full view of the audience by the characters, as is the sound, designed by John Braun and Steven Ackley and controlled from a laptop in the corner of the room. 

 boxplay was such a wonderful start to my 2012 FringeNYC experience, I’m afraid it may have spoiled me.  If so, I won’t regret it for a second.