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Beate Hein Bennett
The Luck of the Draw
“The Verge” by Dante Piro
May 5 – June 26, 2022
Presented by Uncle Mike Productions
163 Willoughby Street, Brooklyn, NY
Thurs. – Sun. at 8 PM, Sat. & Sun. matinee at 3 PM
For tickets and info. go to: https//unclemikepro.com/the-verge
Reviewed by Beate Hein Bennett May 30, 2022
Photo by Taylor Dawson.
If you’re in for a cozy interactive piece of chamber-theater—no more than ten audience members are admitted—make your way to a store front theater conveniently located near the Brooklyn Metro Center on the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Willoughby Street. You’ll be admitted to…well, not a séance but something like a social game…no, not a murder mystery either but a post-funeral game. The audience is treated to the posthumous, ultimate practical joke that the recently deceased ice-cream condiment tycoon, John Randolph Bessenger of “Bessenger’s Bits” has foisted upon his trusty longtime assistant, Virgil Plegyth, or “Verge” as he nicknamed him “because he always seems on the verge of something.” The ten audience members witness the step-by-step unraveling of a final testament and, after Virgil steps outside the room, they must decide by deductive and inductive communal cogitation what shall be Virgil’s fortune.
Having been greeted in the lobby with a complimentary glass of wine, the audience is guided to a lugubrious dark gray elegant but cramped chamber, dominated by a large oblong conference table decorated with table cloth and candles, a chandelier above, a huge painting of an ice-cream sunday on a side wall, two book cases filled with books, a side-board set with wine glasses and a bottle of red wine. Each audience member finds their name tag, sits down on black upholstered chairs around the table with an empty throne-like chair at the head. One waits for the proceedings to begin when a very nervous but officious young man, Virgil, bursts in with apologies for keeping everyone waiting, then he rushes out again but finally returns with a handful of letters that he is charged with reading to the assembled guests. The letters contain instructions penned by his recently departed boss that lead to his will. Virgil, played by Dante Piro, is dressed in a proper dark grey 3-piece suit and tie. (In June, the part will be played by Mitchell Ashe.) He launches with great energy into a bravura performance of reading this series of letters. Each letter, jocular in tone, though at times a bit abusive of his long suffering assistant, reveals the history of the self-made millionaire boss and Virgil’s involvement with the company. In the process of the reading, the audience is asked to find certain objects hidden in the room and must decipher these as clues. Throughout the proceedings, a quiet young woman sits on the side with a computer taking notes. Virgil introduced her at the beginning as the attending lawyer, Alanis, played by Taylor Dawson; she also guided the audience to the executive chamber. (The realistic set design by Robert Taylor is complemented by Mikaila Baca-Dorion’s craftily executed props. Costume design is by Willa Piro.)
The play is a creative experiment in an intimate form of theater. It is the voice of a young actor/playwright who tests in a playful manner a different theatrical experience. However, I also detected behind the playfulness a serious theme: the indifferent treatment of employees in a corporate setting. Choosing something as innocuous as ice-cream as the corporate enterprise—think of Ben and Jerry and the meteoric capitalist rise of its founders—does not hide the reality of the workforce being often treated as a commodity. As a piece of theater “The Verge” is fun!
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