G.I. Joe Jared
nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
January 20, 2010
G.I. Joe Jared, Amy E. Witting's delightful new one-act comedy, is one of those shows that leaves you feeling fulfilled, happy, and uplifted. Presented at the tiny Manhattan Repertory Theatre as part of their Winterfest 2010, where it will play just three performances, it's a piece that deserves a long run and a larger home. I will certainly be watching for new plays featuring Witting and her excellent collaborators.
This play takes place in Annie Moore's, a pub halfway between Grand Central Station and Bryant Park. In a pre-show scene while the audience is taking their seats, Susan is already waiting at her table, drinks for herself and the friend she's expecting on the table, checking her cell and occasionally mouthing the lyrics to the all-Neil Diamond soundtrack that's playing on the speakers. Salome M. Krell does a remarkable job convincing us of the reality of this situation; her skill cues us into what's happening (and sets a high standard for acting that's never broken throughout the play).
As the lights go down, the play proper begins with the entrance of Julie (Kerry Fitzgibbons). She and Susan, we discover, are longtime friends (since at least freshman year of college), and they're meeting here for a girls' night out. In dialogue that's as natural as walking, we learn that Susan lives with a guy named Phil, while Julie's two-year relationship with Michael recently came to a sad end. There's clearly strain between the two women, and we infer that what happened with Michael is likely at the root of it.
But things take a more cheerful turn when Julie discloses that there is a new man in her life. (Actually, Susan pretty much forces the information out of Julie, because Julie keeps texting somebody while Susan is trying to talk to her.) Eventually Julie provides some details: his name is Jared, he's 6'1'' and supposedly looks like Joey Catalano; he's from West Virginia, newly moved to NYC to pursue his art, though he's currently working at an electronics store in Union Square.
Susan is veeeerry skeptical, but Julie is feeling good about this positive step she's taking to re-enter the dating pool. And then Julie gets a text message from Jared: he's in the area and would she like to meet him (for the first time) in about five minutes? She says yes, and G.I. Joe Jared really starts to pick up steam. It's one of those tall tales that feels completely true, because life in New York City is so full of the absolutely off-the-wall and unexpected.
I don't want to give too much more away, because Witting has delicious, fun surprises in store once Jared arrives on the scene. I don't think I'm telling you too much when I say that Jared is no Joey Catalano lookalike (and he's not six feet tall). And the "art" that he came to the Big Apple to do is not exactly painting or sculpture. (There is a connection to the play's title, but I will reveal nothing more.)
The arc of the play is ultimately tender and touching; Witting doesn't just give us a funny comedy sketch here (though the play is hilarious in places) but rather a fully-formed drama about two friends moving steps ahead in their lives together and separately. Witting's staging, on the simplest of sets, matches her intelligent and insightful writing note for note. All three actors—the aforementioned Krell, Kerry Fitzgibbons as Julie, and Billy Weimer as Jared—deliver outstanding performances, creating people who feel quirky yet real. The chemistry between Krell and Fitzgibbons is terrific; we believe from the very first moment they are together that they are old friends with a long history. And Weimer makes Jared the funniest comic creation I've encountered on stage since last fall's The Hypochrondriac.
I sincerely hope to see more of all of these artists, and of G.I. Joe Jared. This is a play that deserves a broad audience, because it's smart, moving, and a great deal of fun.