Recently I took a trip to New York to review the play Meaningful Conversation written by Owen Panettieri and directed by Anaïs Koivisto. The play took place in a very modern looking building called the Art New York Theatres in the Manhattan borough. The seating and the stage were very intimate as if you could touch the props (and with no self-control you could.) The people in the theatre seemed to know each other very well and spent the seating period laughing and talking. It was clear that this was a small theatre community within the larger theatre community of New York City.
The play started quietly, David walked across the stage doing various everyday things. Nat then came through the window offering a small gift; to share a pint of ice cream. Throughout the first act not much happened. The characters created a blanket fort, played a game of spit and talked. The conversation gave a lot of good exposition, but it was mostly uneventful. There was a short sex scene that was awkward to watch and didn’t provide much for the plot, but the first act set up for the second act; that was its sole purpose. Through this meaningful conversation (hint hint) it was revealed that Nat’s mother was murdered in a domestic dispute (and the cops did very little) which led to her not trusting and disliking them. The conversation also revealed David has an ex-girlfriend named Debby, is afraid of fire and wants to work in real estate. The conversation opened up a lot about Nat’s character but left a lot to desire for David’s character. Nat also believes David should switch up his room decor, and David responds with a subtle “maybe someday.” She gives him the nickname Jerome, telling him he looks like Jerry Seinfeld. The humor was good in this act and raised hopes for the second act.
In this act, David is seen with another girl named Lydia, awoken by the banging from his neighbors. The set has changed in little ways. The comforter is different, and the batman wall art now has a picture of the city. it is hard to figure out how long it has been since the first act, and later it is said to be three years; it would have been nice to have to know that earlier to compare the two. David and Lydia set their ears against the wall to listen, hearing a domestic dispute. After the dispute gets out of hand (they can hear furniture smash, and the man threatens to kill the woman) David calls the police. They say they are on their way, and in the meantime, Lydia and David have a conversation. It’s then noted that it was a one night stand, and Lydia and David had left Debby to spend the night together. This is hard to understand, as David was already broken up with Debby in the first act, and it sounded bad. David talks about the girl upstairs (Nat), and how Nat and her boyfriend are drug addicts. He makes it seem as if he doesn’t know her, not using her name. They keep listening to the wall until the police call saying that they’ve arrived. David leaves Lydia alone in the apartment, and Nat comes through the window, demanding to see Jerome. Lydia is horrified, taken aback, and confused. She doesn’t know who Jerome is, and wants Nat to leave. Nat tells Lydia about her and David, the night they spent together, and all of the jokes in between. Lydia finally manages to get Nat out of the apartment and begins to get dressed. She calls a friend of hers, speaking in Spanish over the phone. From what is understood, she wants him to pick her up. There isn’t a reason given why she was speaking Spanish, nor a hint at her ethnicity. On top of that, we never find out who she is talking to.
David comes in noticing that Lydia is spooked, and he figures out that Nat had been there. The police request to listen to the wall and come into the apartment. The police officers come in oddly, making random gestures, and taking large pauses. They provided a small amount of comic relief though. Other than this, there isn’t much that they did. The talked for a tiny bit, asking random questions. The seemed almost pointless, and as if they were only there to add numbers to the cast list. They hear Nat stomping around upstairs, and Lydia practically tells them to arrest her. The police officers rush up, and David is furious when he hears Nat screaming and crying due to the police upstairs. This is a large tie back to the fact that she hates police officers that we could have seen coming from a hundred miles away. David goes upstairs and stands there unable to do anything (we heard, it wasn’t shown onstage). Nat is arrested and taken away, and David returns to Lydia distraught. They decide to go to the police station and try to save her. This is where the play ends. It was not only left on a cliffhanger but the only action that happens occurs offstage.
Overall it was mostly uneventful. The set didn’t change once (except for minor details), the plot wasn’t fantastic, and there were a few spots that provided very little to the story. Saying this though, the actors and actresses were alright, the costumes were nice and modern, the set convinced the audience that it was night, and the usage of sound and lighting was incredible. The actor that played David (Denver Milord) was somewhat under reactive, but not badly so. There were a few points that could have been better (the bed fort creation, and the cops arriving), but there were also parts that were incredibly well done (when Nat is first introduced, finding the condoms, and crying about not helping Nat more.) Bethany Geraughty (Nat) was fantastic. The quirky character really came through, her expressions were great, and it threw the audience into the story. Bertha Leal (Lydia’s actress) was pretty great; she had good expressions, gestures, and general reactions. She never seemed unnatural or out of pace, and there is a ton of potential for her as an actress. The two cops (played by SJ Hannah, and John-Peter Cruz) were alright from what we saw of them. They were funny but didn’t give the characters a whole lot of development. They didn’t seem to do much but be standing dialogue providers for the other characters to work off of. If you enjoy artsy plays, then this might be for you. I didn’t love the show, but I didn’t hate it. It was boring and lasted for a long amount of time. I found myself trying to piece the plot together, but there wasn’t a whole lot. There wasn’t a resolution, an exact climax, or any distinguishable areas that couldn’t be found in every other play. I was happy I saw it because it was well executed, but I wouldn’t see it again.