HIGH AND LOW POINTS IN A CINEMATIC GRAB BAG
by Cindy Pierre
FUBAR or Interesting, Incredible, Amazing,
now playing Off Broadway at 59E59 Theaters
through June 28
Variety used to be the spice of life, but now introspection and reflection are.
With so many talk shows and dramas like HBO's In Treatment focusing on the psyche and problems rooted in the past, it's no wonder that
Karl Gajdusek's FUBAR or Interesting, Incredible, Amazing, Fantastic has jumped on the bandwagon. From working as a writer and story
editor on Showtime's Dead Like Me, where grim reapers prey on the living to a play
where characters prey on themselves, Gajdusek is no stranger to doom and gloom. Luckily, FUBAR
has more than enough highs (even if they're self-induced) to complement the lows.
For one thing, drug cocktails are often the talk and the walk of the day. From
the moment that David (Jerry Richardson) and his drug-dealer friend Richard (Ryan McCarthy) are introduced at a club, it's obvious that it's
good times with the promise of greater times that bind them. While Richard's hard at work trying to get David to better himself, David begins
to covet Silvia (The Devil Wears Prada's Stephanie Szostak), Richard's beautiful,
thrill-seeking girlfriend. But before you start condemning his lust (or applauding it), you meet
Mary (Lisa Velten Smith), his hollow, ne'er satisfied wife whose abused mother recently passed. They may not be acceptable excuses for David's
wandering eye or mind, but Mary's behavior and their unhappy home life will definitely give you pause before you cast judgment. Yet, the
factors that weigh in on your decision don't stop there.
In addition to the interaction between the characters, there's also plenty of developments happening on the stage walls –
from a camera. Probing images of the actors, from shots taken mostly by David with a camera that
seems to be rigged with a timer delay, flash intermittently on the walls like a collage of moments that shape who their characters
are. They almost function as a 4th dimension to each character, even though that's not
required. There are enough subplots to round out each person's story. Perhaps a little too much.
In a long 2.5 hours, FUBAR rises and plummets several times both in theme and mood.
From the well-executed menage-a-trois between David, Richard and Silvia that unfolds like a scenario from the online game Second Life to
Mary's ordeal with an attacker, there are constant spikes. Even so, not all of the storylines
are fully developed. The main story with Mary's childhood and adulthood is mapped out well with
realistic dialogue and drama, even if it lends itself to histrionics every once in a while. Her
scenes with DC (Dan Patrick Brady), the trainer that looks like he escaped from the Rocky
franchise, are especially important in shaping her transformation from a weak to strong-willed person. But Richard and Silvia's story, told
only in spurts with virtually no back story, is far from complete. Same goes for DC's
story. We learn of his losses, but no other details are offered to make him anything other than
a great wall of pain. But not everything is so grave.
With Smith and Brady as an exception, almost all of the characters are given material to demonstrate comedic skill under
Larissa Kokernot's sharp direction. Richardson's outrageous dancing in the beginning leaves an
impression on you even when he goes through his downs, and his scenes with McCarthy almost always inspire chuckles. You also can't help but smile every time Szostak, playing a cross between Mia Wallace from Pulp
Fiction and Annie Wilson from The Gift, appears onstage.
In fact, FUBAR has many cinematic qualities from beginning to end. From the camera shots that sometimes resemble a reel of film to the many references (some unnamed) to movies
like Enough, you might think you were watching a movie if you didn't know any better. For
the sake of style and movie buffs who don't typically frequent theater, that may be a good thing, but regular theater patrons may be put
off. In fact, the similarities to cinema make the experience seem artificial.
Although FUBAR is a mishmash of different genres and plots that could use some
serious editing, it will still make you smile, laugh, or even think, if you allow yourself to go there. It’s not totally satisfying as an immediate experience, but much like with its characters, a lot of growth
can be achieved by looking back.
cindypierre @ stageandcinema.com