Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Theatre with Abe: Lola-Lola

Directed by Rebecca Hengstenberg
Final Performance Saturday, August 27

This past week, I had the rare pleasure of seeing a show in New York City. I caught the penultimate performance of “Lola-Lola,” a selection of the 15th Annual New York International Fringe Festival. This eccentric little play features five performers and tells the story of Lola-Lola, or Lola for short, a Tanzanian chimpanzee brought to the United States by Mary, the wife of John, a prominent professor of anthropology. Lola speaks to the audience, but can only communicate with the humans on stage with looks and deeds. Her evolution – and John’s gradual grasp of her intellect – is a delight to watch, filled with humor and cleverness. Melissa Sussman is engaging and believable as Lola, moving around the stage like a chimpanzee in a surprisingly graceful manner and subtly effecting a portrayal of someone who is not human but might as well be. Christopher Sutton, as John, delivers many a speech with the appropriate gusto, and it’s when John begins to doubt himself that his performance becomes most captivating. Leanne Barrineau is perfectly pretentious as Mary, and Colin McFadden makes the most of egghead Ted, John’s best friend and Mary’s lover. Dennis Z. Gagomiros rounds out the cast with hilarious accents as the remaining slew of characters that figure into only a scene or two. “Lola-Lola” derives its greatest achievements in the choice interactions of its players, developing Lola into a character far more complex, honest, and brave than all the humans that appear on stage. It’s a thought-provoking play that’s equally entertaining and funny. Its two-act, ninety-minute runtime brings all the arcs to a satisfying and memorable close.

Catch the final performance of “Lola-Lola” at the Living Theatre at 21 Clinton St on Saturday, August 27th at 4:45pm.

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