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Scherzo

nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
August 3, 2010

Scherzo really appealed to me because I felt like I was in a better world. It's not a different world—it's still a world filled with banality and consumerism, but it's also filled with these glorious moments of beauty and fantasy. You remember the scene in the movie The Fisher King when he's watching the girl he's in love with walk through Grand Central Station and then all of a sudden everyone is ballroom dancing? It's moments like that...beautiful and fleeting.

As we enter the space, a quaint little tea house called Alice's Teacup, we are seated in two long theater-style rows and we stare at five actors seated at tables along the opposite wall who are engaged in their little cafe moments. We stare at them for long while—long enough that I began to feel like a voyeur and I wondered if this may be the whole night. Then suddenly they begin to move, slowly at first and then they move faster and with more intention until finally they break down and fall back into their first positions. Then they speak. Their dialogue is the banal chatter that you would overhear at a place like this. It's funny only because it's very right now and so typical. There is not much of a story, the show is mostly a string of moments and movement but that doesn't mean that there is no story at all.

Writer David Alex Andrejko and director Ellen Orenstein are certainly going somewhere with this. I felt the beginnings of a story but it ends before anything really develops. I understand this is a pilot episode of a series to follow but I felt a little let down by the quick end. The show is only 40 minutes or so. But everything in that 40 minutes is an absolute joy. I loved Orenstein's direction and Anna DeMers's choreography. I was really quite impressed with what they did with this long flat space. It is so simple and yet elegant. They have the performers communicating equally with their words as they do their bodies in these dances and stare downs. Orenstein is not afraid of long moments of silence—the opening silence is not the only one—and I love that. Her choice to have the actors present their daily affirmations in direct audience address is one of several ways Orenstein pushes and pulls on the audience. The music, arranged by Chip Rodgers with original music by Alex Winston, really completes the atmosphere. Winston's sound is sweet, soulful, and a little quirky. It could have been a little louder and all around us but it is very well done.

The cast—Molly Groome, Jillian Mason, Melissa McNerney, Adrien Saunders, and Zac Walker—is fantastic. They are young and pretty and they all seem to be very into this project. I had the sense that they enjoyed finding these characters and playing in this world that is reality and fantasy mixed together. They have great chemistry together and everything they do they do with commanding intention and commitment. Their dialogue is delivered naturally with very little effort. They all do well with subtle facial expressions and fill the silent moments with volumes of subtextual thought and action.

Scherzo is refreshing theatre. The mix of expressionism, dance, realism, and a little bit of kitsch going on in this show really pulled me into their world and I really enjoyed it. I could have stayed considerably longer. I intend on checking out the next episode of this series and I recommend you do too. If it's anything like their pilot episode then it's certainly worth it.