nytheatre.com review by Russell M. Kaplan
August 14, 2008
It's nice to occasionally see a show that actually puts the "International" in New York International Fringe Festival, and one of this year's foreign-exchange offerings is a humble and efficient pair of brand new solo shows from Dublin (directed by American Jack Halpin). Delivered by appealing actors with disarming accents, Irish playwright Derek O'Connor's Maladjusted. Misappropriated. is not terribly ambitious or profound, but still provides an entertaining hour with a few surprises.
Each of these two "sister plays" shows a character trapped alone with their thoughts, awaiting an uncertain fate. In Maladjusted, a teacher is held in some sort of detention, nervously sipping tea and scarfing down candy. As she waxes on about the lack of effective parenting and discipline in the world today, she reveals occasional nuggets about how she got into this situation (no spoilers, but it's naturally quite ironic). Misappropriated shows us a security guard sitting bound to a chair by burglars, blood on his face and "muppet" written on his forehead. As he resigns himself to the unlikelihood of rescue anytime soon, we are given a similar window into his past and the circumstances that led to the assault.
The strength of this production definitely lies in the carefully considered performances of Anna Nugent and Laurence Lowry, who bring some nice depth to their characters, as well as a levity that keeps the plays watchable. They manage to transcend material that is, while interesting at times, also rather gimmicky in its "guess how they got here" premise. Both plays might benefit from placing less importance on the plot twists, or by having those twists serve to enhance these interesting characters more—as they're currently written, they're actually a bit distracting.
The plays are about as minimalist as you can get, with little more than basic costumes, a few props and functional lighting—the kind of plays that probably made this cross-Atlantic collaboration manageable and fun for the artists. This small scale may be Maladjusted. Misappropriated.'s blessing and curse: it's very easy to sit down and wolf it down in an hour, but so far it lacks a sense of completion as a theatrical event. Time and development will certainly help to flesh these stories into something special...in the meantime, Maladjusted. Misappropriated. is still a pleasant and engaging item on the FringeNYC menu, though you may leave feeling like you only got an appetizer.