Behind The Sticks
nytheatre.com review by John Samuel Jordan
August 15, 2006
Thousands of young, hopeful actors move to New York City every year from all over the world to try and "make it" on Broadway (and the Fringe festival, of course). Whether "making it" means fame and fortune, steady work in the industry, or a variation thereon, that is up to the individual.
In the new play, Behind the Sticks, we are introduced to two such individuals. Fresh out of the Midwest and only a few weeks in Manhattan, a hungry actor needs a job. Luckily, he immediately gets one working as a bartender, or behind the sticks (it's a bartending term...I googled it and a few bartenders had it on their blogs as well). Played enthusiastically by Brad Fraizer, this go-getter plans on getting his big break rather quickly...within six months he claims. And he wants it all...fame, fortune, the works.
Then there is the other bartender, Jimmy. He is a down-to-earth guy, has a few years on the new kid, more life experience. Jimmy is also an actor, a Julliard graduate, but he no longer pursues that dream. He is content with bartending, one-night stands, his bookie and the occasional cocaine rush. Adam Mervis, who also wrote the play, has an amazing confidence and charisma on the stage as Jimmy. It works amazingly well for this character. He has definitely written a great vehicle for himself.
The two become quick friends and learn a lot about life and each other, and more important, themselves. It's about hope and dreams, and whether or not they are worth it in the long run.
The direction by Megan Marod is dead-on. There are a few spots that could pick up the pace a bit, especially in the scene changes, but I attribute those minor flaws to opening night "jitters."
Speaking of scene changes, the set is Fringe-tastic. Fringe shows have to be in and out. A company only has a few minutes to set up. Therefore, productions work best with minimal set pieces. When Behind the Sticks opens, there is a bar onstage. After the first scene, the bar (on wheels) is rolled completely around to reveal its other side (the bartender's side), so we now have the perspective from behind the bar. This bar set piece is moved to a different angle on the stage for each scene. This is actually quite fascinating to watch. There are two females who come out and assist during most of the scene changes. They are not credited, but they are quite good. As the play moves on they become vocal and play into the action with the characters of the bartenders. I am unclear as to whether this is a pure direction choice or all in the writing. I would choose to believe that it is a collaboration of both, since the final product turns out so well.