nytheatre.com review by Lisa Ferber
September 16, 2006
The reason "I laughed, I cried" is a cliché is because it's a valid indication of a successful show. Lunch, with book, music, and lyrics, by Shawn Northrip, gave me just that experience. Now, I'll just make it clear that I mostly laughed: this is a comedy, a big, fun comedy, and the touching moments that come are appropriately timed, not heavy-handed, and fit perfectly into the comedic flow.
Lunch is a series of vignettes leading up to the election of king and queen of the eighth grade dinner dance (though to me it felt a bit more sophisticated, like high school, and it's definitely not for kids). But the suspense isn't the focus here; what's important are the tales of friendship, backstabbing, loneliness, the need for popularity and coolness, all performed by a cast that is 100% on-board.
This is a strikingly talented ensemble. They look great, they're confident, and they can really, really sing. It's a high quality production, not in dazzling sets, but in performers who know what they're doing.
Throughout the show, a band wearing black sunglasses stands in the background looking hip, ready to burst into action any time a song needs music. This is just hilarious, a bunch of guys sitting there in shades, looking sweetly bemused throughout even the most touching of scenes. Another wordlessly funny touch is that whenever the night's musical MC Mophead (the energetic and talented Matt Doyle) sings, his sidekick Magic Box (Bryant Sullivan) does interpretive dance right nearby, ranging from punk/ska to stoned/Deadhead. Sullivan's wordless performance is relentlessly funny as he sways and moves his body in just the kind of stiff-but-flowing way a teenager would think makes him look mellow, and then flails his arms and legs while in a rocking-out moment.
Frankly, the entire cast delivers stellar performances, with many in dual roles. Bryan Davis not only has the natural charm of a teen hunk, he displays one heck of a beautiful singing voice, and the adorable Kelly Tighe is completely game when doing a funny musicless dance on a tabletop.
There's also a sensitive, strong performance by Rich Hollman as Davis's best friend, in one of the more tender vignettes about best friendship. There's a point in childhood where friendships come first, before jobs and romance enter the picture, and there's a point where that changes. Northrip deals with this in his script, as well as tackling eating disorders, isolation, and the desperate need to be noticed by one's parents. And yet somehow even with these deeper issues, there's more than enough pure hilarity to keep an audience laughing throughout.
Having read in the program that this production company, Bouncing Ball, is based in Washington, DC, I must say: I really do hope they come to New York more often.