Stage and Cinema film and theatre reviews

The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side Off Broadway Theater Review




picture - The Pied Pipers of the Lower East SideTheater Review

by Kestryl Lowrey

published October 2, 2009


The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side

now playing Off Broadway at Theater 80

through October 5


You may have heard this one before.  A group of young bohemians lives rent-free on the lower east side.  Their previously cool landlord sells out, evicting the group and throwing their utopian dreams into disarray.  Add “Seasons of Love” and you have Rent.  Add an “extended sexual family” and a brother reminiscent of Tucker Max and you have The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side.


That may come across as more biting than I actually intend.  Okay, so the plot isn’t particularly original, but what is nowadays?  And, honestly, playwright/director Derek Ahonen does throw some unexpected twists into the script, and the ensemble takes the piece on with verve and enthusiasm.  Between that and a fair helping of not-quite-gratuitous full frontal nudity, the show manages to buck and roll for nearly three hours without becoming slow or preachy.


I partially blame my liberal arts education for the sense of déjà vu that permeated the evening.  I spent four years attending a college that the Princeton Review ranked as a top destination for “Birkenstock-Wearing, Tree-Hugging, Clove-Smoking Vegetarians.”  I’m almost certain that Wyatt lived across the hall from me, and Billy and Dear must have been part of the affinity group that I would sometimes accompany to protests of the war, or the WTO, or whatever other issue had become popular that week.  We were young, privileged, and idealistic, and we were living in a bubble.  Graduation popped that bubble for most of my peers—eviction almost does for the Pied Pipers. 


The action all unfolds in the living room shared by Wyatt (Matthew Pilieci), Billy (James Kautz), Dawn (Mandy Nicole Moore), and Dear (Sarah Lemp), in a worn apartment above a vegan restaurant that the tribe runs.  Here, the characters live and fight and love, and the entire ensemble throws themselves into their roles with such exuberance that it’s hard not to get wrapped up in their idealistic quest to save their own corner of the world. 


Of course, the problem with utopia is that it’s never complete, and the problem with saving the world is that the stakes can’t get any higher.  The continuously high stakes become a problem in this play, because if everyone is already screaming at the start of the first act, there aren’t many more places for them to go.  Ahonen’s script has room for more varied expressions; it’s disappointing that the ensemble didn’t take the time to find them.  I’m surprised that the actors didn’t seem completely exhausted by the time they made it to curtain call—with the play’s breakneck pace, I’m still not sure how they managed to find time to breathe. 


The play raises important questions of belonging, community, and gentrification, though it does not end on as ambiguous of a note as I’m sure the company, The Amoralists, would like to believe—it’s pretty clear who we’re supposed to respect and who we’re supposed to vilify.  This is par for the course in any utopia, though; to offer anything more would be simply idealistic. 


kestryl.lowrey @


photo by Larry Cobra


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