nytheatre.com review by Mark DeFrancis
June 1, 2008
Cinephilia is a play with great potential. While on the surface, it is a story about love, both of films and of people, it is truly a portrait of twentysomething artists who know so little of what they want or who they are. Playwright Leslye Headland has got a lock on the frenetic, distracted, and confused young adult and I would not be surprised if she one day wrote a defining work on the subject, but Cinephilia is just not quite there. The play showcases some excellent dialogue and a couple of fine performances, but is ultimately mired in poor pacing and inconsistency.
The piece presents one evening in the lives of two cinephiles, people who, in this case, love films more than real life. Johnny and Arden have a "friends with benefits" relationship, which is going through another one of its erotic flare-ups. The affair is a one-sided one. Arden desperately seeks commitment and affection from Johnny, who has no clue what either of these things even is. Unable to discuss what really matters most, they constantly evade their argument by indulging their mutual love of film. This creates a countless number of tangential film discussions, which give the audience a well-needed break from the dreary love spat, and illustrate the shortened attention span of young movie addicts.
Katie Capiello sizzles and pops as the spontaneous and vindictive Arden, playing just on the edge of crazy with ease. She is sadly matched up with Brandon Scott's rather dismal portrayal of Johnny, who is described as a loner/sex god, but comes across as a loser/nerd. His attempt at relaxed disinterest is ultimately boring and he simply lacks the presence to justify his value in the story.
But all is not lost; Christian Durso arrives as the jet-fueled roommate Plato, adding much needed dimension and intensity to the play. His arrival brings the entire show to life and showcases the sort of witty back and forth that Headland writes so well. Nila K Leigh arrives very late in the play as Johnny's new dream girl Natalie, but is forced to deal with some very expositional and weak dialogue, which seems strangely out of place. In the end, battles are fought, secrets are revealed, but very little is accomplished other than many insights into film industry and culture.
Cinephilia is a very mixed bag. It is at some points plodding and redundant, which is made all the worse by some moments of real brilliance. While I cannot recommend this particular incarnation of Cinephilia, I will absolutely keep my eye out for future work from many of these artists.