We Crazy, Right?
nytheatre.com review by Theresa Buchheister
August 12, 2012
There is no room for excess at Jimmy's No. 43. There is barely room to cross my legs without kicking someone. It is the back room of a basement bar in the East Village, with oddly angled walls and a stage built for one. It is just the kind of place that I love (to drink at), but one that seems to present an artist with challenge rather than opportunity. As luck would have it, Jeff Seabaugh does a bang up job with challenge. We Crazy, Right? marries insightful, hilarious, structured material with fluid, charismatic, skillful performance. When you have such a powerful union, you don't need anything else.
We Crazy, Right? is a long form Moth StorySLAM-esque performance of a themed slice of life. It is the tale of two men who want to be dads navigating the murky, mysterious world of parent training/adoption and eventually (presently) raising three Dominican siblings. It is mostly linear, each experience and relationship building into the next, never veering far from the central story: how Seabaugh became a stay at home dad.
I approach "life stories as theatre" with a fair degree of skepticism. Largely because wannabe artists are often the worst narcissists, who believe their lives to be unique, interesting, and worth sharing. A narcissist desiring a spotlight to expose themselves is rarely art. Seabaugh IS an artist, however, and approaches his story with diligent technique and craftsmanship. He has a great awareness of the slippery nature of individuality and universality. His is a distinctly personal story. It is his life and experience translated into a one man show. At the same time, it is a show about parenting, childhood, milestones, perspective, struggle... Themes we all relate to (in varying ways) effortlessly. It is this seamless overlay of self and other, big and small written with attention to pacing, build, and expression that differentiates this show from a "look at me sharefest" and makes it a fine piece of writing that ought to be performed.
Beyond the artistic integrity of the script, he is also a skilled comic writer. Chalk me up as one person who never thought she would guffaw at an Ordinary People joke or nod in agreement with the exhausted assertion that "panties are disposable". To add another layer to this already textured narrative, the emotional wallops are integrated throughout and hit you hard in the end, without feeling manipulative. I even called my parents after the show because I wanted to thank them for finding such a clever way to divide the room I shared with my sister as a kid. Theatre that leads to action without demanding it? That is some powerful writing.
Solid writing alone does not a strong piece of theatre make (sorry, Mamet). Had the performance or direction lagged, the writing would have suffered multiple indignities. I was not sure during the first ten minutes if the energy and specificity could be sustained. I figured he would lose steam and the descent into muddled action (and worse, muddled miming) would bum me out.
The scenes and characters entered and exited with perfect timing and subtle shifts. This precision never fell prey to momentum or vocal audience approval, which would send a lesser performer spinning. Seabaugh is keen with gesture and implication, never pushing too hard, and, as a result, never losing his audience. On that tiny stage, all he needed was a pair of expertly manipulated eyeglasses, his well-tuned vocal prowess, and bottomless energy. That's all. (Not everyone can do this! Please be warned!)
The pleasing blend of top notch writing, direction, and performance can be seen most clearly in the impact of Seabaugh's one-sided conversations. Not since Bob Newhart has it been done so well.
When the component pieces of a show are so strong, it does make me wish the creative team would calm down with the light changes. They were so unnecessary in that space, for that show, that they became distracting and confusing.
In a sea of many (many) shows in FringeNYC, do yourself a favor and see one that approaches the challenges of such a festival, a tiny space, and a difficult format and comes out undeniably on top.