nytheatre.com review by Kristin Skye Hoffmann
August 13, 2010
I once had an acting professor who told me that the best scenes are always made up of two or more people who should not be in a room together. Daniel McCoy's Group puts six people in that proverbial room and for the most part it holds true to my professor's statement. They have each met their untimely deaths in the same neighborhood and their lives on Earth connected with one another in one way or another, but truly, in any other circumstance they probably wouldn't know each other.
Randy, the moody redheaded artist; Roberto, the young gay clubber; Kimberly, the ambitious young single mother; and Alan, the self-proclaimed bitchy queen all find themselves in a purgatorial group therapy session with Beth, their therapist, in between their death and whatever it is that lies beyond. It is only when Kelly, a stock trader, shows up unexpectedly, throwing off their numbers, that what seems like a long, painful process of self examination and acceptance before moving on kicks into high gear—and these souls start moving on at record speed.
Kelly, played with lovely naturalism by Adam Hyland, seems to have a knack for putting things in perspective. Sure, you died, but what's certain is that sitting in a therapy session for eternity is not the right choice. It seems that fear governs most of them and it is that comment by McCoy that I found the most interesting. The souls that have been sent to this room are individuals who lived their lives governed by fear and those of them who did that the least, move on the quickest. Those who feel like their lives were lived poorly, taking advantage of others, filling themselves with resentment or simply not being grateful for what they had, are the most fearful of how they'll be rewarded.
McCoy knows just what this play is and presents it without fear, throwing in a few comical jabs at itself here and there, endearing his audience to the piece. This is not subject matter that hasn't been tackled before but it has been executed in a charming way. He draws our consciousness to other theatrical afterlife examinations like Sartre's No Exit in a shrewd commentary. This intelligent script could stand to be pared down a bit, the 90-minute run time could easily have been 60, and there were a few of the technical issues that tend to pop up during a Fringe show (the companies producing work in FringeNYC get very little time for technical run-through) but the cast holds their own with standout performances by the very funny John C. Hume as Alan and Hyland as Kelly, who is incredibly easy to watch. The production as a whole could use a little polish, but overall, Group is well worth a trip to FringeNYC this year. I believe it has a promising future and I look forward to seeing this piece mature even more.