The True Life Story of YOUR NAME HERE
nytheatre.com review by Michael Criscuolo
June 2, 2006
Youngblood opts into the Sellout Festival in a truly unique way: they auctioned off the opportunity to have a one-act play written about the life of the winning bidder. The finished product, The True Life Story of [Your Name Here]: Tom Ritchford, is as entertaining and eclectic as its subject.
The benefactor in question is Tom Ritchford, a math and computer wiz, amateur musician, and all-purpose gadfly. His parents died of AIDS after his closeted gay father infected his mother. His best friend committed suicide by hanging himself. He's obsessed with young (dare I say underage?) girls. And, an ex-girlfriend of his once knifed him. If this doesn't sound like fun and games, rest assured that in the hands of the Youngblood playwrights it is. They turn Ritchford's tragic and peculiar life into a hilariously surreal fantasia in which he imagines himself as the star of his own James Bond movie. There's the kung fu throwdown against three of his ex-girlfriends (Red, Crazy Dancer, and Barely Legal Undergrad); dramatic confrontations with his ailing parents; and many jokes made at Ritchford's expense. (Right at the start, an actor comes onstage and announces: "I'm not the real Tom Ritchford…I'm just the actor these fucktools thought had a good enough voice to pull off being Tom Ritchford. Confused yet? It gets more confusing. Trust me, you wasted your money. So did I.")
Team-written by Qui Nguyen, Michael Lew, Courtney Brooke Lauria, Emily Conbere, Daria Polatin, Edith L. Freni, Sharyn Rothstein, and Annie Baker, The True Life Story of [Your Name Here]: Tom Ritchford respectfully handles the events of Ritchford's life with total irreverence. Director R.J. Tolan hurtles the show along at breakneck speed, cramming as much as possible into its hour-long running time. One particular device of his stands out: having most of the cast take turns playing Tom, thus emphasizing the different sides of their slippery protagonist. But, this tactic also becomes confusing, as it's sometimes difficult to know who's playing who when. A little modification by both Tolan and the writers ought to clarify things in no time. In the meantime, the talented seven-person cast is up to the task of keeping the story straight. Lucia Brizzi, Helen Coxe, Debbie Jaffe, David Gelles-Hurwirtz, Moira Lael MacDonald, Gregg Mozgala, and Steven Sanpietro all look like they're having a blast. Their teamwork and camaraderie onstage is terrific.
One unexpected perk on the night I attended was the presence of the actual Tom Ritchford. He sat in the front row, beer in hand, and laughed openly along with the rest of the crowd. His good-natured reactions to the play were as compelling as the play itself. But, with or without its namesake's presence in the audience, The True Life Story of [Your Name Here]: Tom Ritchford still has a lot to offer.