nytheatre.com review by Mark DeFrancis
August 12, 2007
In the vaguely distant future, the world has learned to cure all of its problems from disease to war. Without problems, courage has become vestigial, resulting in a populous desperately in need of a cure for the apathy and boredom of utopia. Chance Collins, a drifter/rebel with a penchant for blunt honesty and sarcasm, is the answer. Out to avenge his murdered family, he chances upon the hopeless marriage of Bob and Jane. This couple has been rendered so apathetic by the future that they neither know what they want or how to give it to their partner. Chance's brute humanity and blind quest for justice stirs the waters of their union forcing them to eventually break through their suburban haze in a show which gets better with each scene.
Will Manning's portrayal of Chance Collins is the best reason to see this show, or even the Fringe at all. Manning balances so much humor, anger, confidence and more in Chance that we are drawn to him in every scene. This is not simply a fine performance but exactly the character needed to illustrate playwright/director/actor Manny Liyes entire vision. Speaking of which, Liyes manages to pull off the often-fatal "playwright in the show" move, portraying the police investigator assigned to deal with Chance. Though I had trouble hearing him at times, his interrogator's kind disposition was a fine foil for Manning's performance. Ari Vigoda also shows great range by giving Bob the crafted exterior of the future-loser, which the play cautions against.
This play, does however, have some flaws. While time constraints make technical work the hardest part of Fringe theatre, the show could have been much more polished in terms of sound and lights. The show is also far too vague on the future world it inhabits. Concepts like the "Rally" are poorly explained and ultimately distracting form the main thrust of the show. Finally, the climax hangs on a plot twist so contrived that I wanted to cry. There is a lot good happening in Analog Friend, but it is just not yet ready to be a great show.