nytheatre.com review by Ivanna Cullinan
March 7, 2007
"Ezra, this is the Theater, you don't use the f-word unless you're pretending."
So goes one of Penny Lamb's many wonderful pronouncements in the Atomic Vaudeville production of Legoland. Presented as a show that young Penny has been forced to create by her social worker while on probation for drug trafficking, this piece is stylish and smart and a whole lot of fun.
Accompanied by her brother Ezra with his slightly disturbing voice and propensity for putting on puppet shows of German nihilism, Penny recounts their adventures after being removed from the commune to which their family belonged. Taken from this demi-nirvana supportive commune and thrown into the "real" world (known to them previously as "legoland"), the Lambs are seemingly under-prepared to survive. However, they do have a variety of distressingly wrong and hilarious tactics to rely upon. Between the rules they make up and those that are presented to them, many clashes erupt. Heartbreakingly funny moments of extreme teenage isolation at an evil boarding school ensue until at last the two set off across the U.S. on the ultimate teenage pop fan undertaking: they are following Penny's tragicomic infatuation with former boy band star, Johnny Moon. Her self-appointed mission is to save Johnny from himself. Yet the embarrassing and painful conclusion to be expected from such a journey is somehow transformed by Penny's imaginative take on the world into an unexpected and startling transcendence. The ideas in Legoland may be outlandishly expressed but are rooted in recognizable teenage fixations and completely possible. (Did I mention the entire trip is financed by them selling the meds prescribed to Ezra by the boarding school psychiatrist?) There is a balance here of absurd and actual that creates an utterly intoxicating mixture.
This show is the very best kind of festival theater. It relies on solid text, a great cast, and spare but specific design. The irreverent writing is clever enough that it amuses and solid enough that it can support an ultimately reverential, wonderful closing statement. Both of the actors have solid stage confidence and are positively winsome. Celine Stubel is enormously compelling as Penny and is well supported by the eccentricities of Amitai Marmorstein's Ezra. The Barbie and Ken puppetry, school uniforms, and selective usage of projection create the parameters of a world that the Lambs fill out entirely. With all the words they use, the talent involved makes Legoland an incredibly engaging pretend place.