nytheatre.com review by Steve Chasey
August 15, 2004
Gwenyth Reitz’s fine-tuned directing of Spare Change combines with Pauline Luppert’s zany writing style and what emerges is akin to the idea of yin and yang, where opposites balance to produce an inner harmony. The contrasts appear from the starting scene, in which a man begs for change from advertising executives by rushing into their office, and stream wildly out from there. The play covers topics from astral projection to sordid love affairs and betrayals, often transitioning fluidly between two radically different extremes. Behind all the extremes, however, is complete control on the part of the director and actors; the reality of the characters, the elaborate and flawless decoration changes between scenes, and the completeness of the overall experience all cradle the exuberant and occasionally fantastical matter of the play.
Becca Ayers, as a young ad exec, is the cog pin of the talented squad of actors in this piece. Like the play itself, her character swings wildly through a range of emotional, moral, and conceptual states, through which Ayers is able to exhibit her effortless control. She is backed up by a cast that holds fast to the play’s edgy, eclectic power, all the while held in by the reality of their character’s goals and personalities. In particular, Tina Stafford, playing the part of Ursala Frank, a disturbed ex-elementary schoolteacher, excels at combining the fantastical and the real, often changing mid-sentence between one and the other.
The social activist themes of the play are somewhat overpowered by the play's distance from reality. One driving theme is the housing of homeless in the city's parks, which culminates with a final dramatic demonstration, a key scene in the piece. The scene, while still powerful, is muddled by contradicting messages and the overall unbelievable nature of the situation. These issues far from ruin the performance, however; Spare Change is a must-see Fringe Festival event.