The 2003 New York International Fringe Festival and
Can't Sleep Productions
The Greenwich Street Theatre
547 Greenwich Street, between Charlton and Vandam Streets, NYC
Tickets: 212-279-4499 (NY) or 888-FringeNYC (Outside NY) or www.FringeNYC.org
Friday, August 8 @ 9:45 PM, Saturday, August 9 @ 7:45 PM
Wednesday, August 13 @ 3:00 PM, Friday, August 15 @ 6:45 PM
Saturday, August 16 @ 12:00 PM, Saturday, August 23 @ 2:15 PM
Written and Directed by Jay Duffer
Co-Directed/Fight Choreography by Stacey Plaskett
Original Music -- Nick Rissman
Sound Design -- TJ McEvoy
Production Stage Manager -- Allison Hall
Assistant Stage Manager -- Amy Francis Schott
Costume Coordinator -- Kimberly Prentice
Video Sequence/Editing -- Peter Kendall
Voice Design/Recording -- Doug Ladendorf
Graphic Design -- Donna Heffernan
Press Representative – Corinne Zadik
(In order of appearance)
Big Girl -- ANDREA ALTON
Claire Shipley -- MAURA M. KNOWLES
Mike -- RAY CRISARA
Nicole -- KIMBERLY PRENTICE
Delivery Guy -- JESSE WILSON
You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have BIG GIRL, LITTLE WORLD. The merits of this production parallel "The Facts of Life" theme song, sung by the main character in this, writer and director Jay Duffer's first play. A mediocre Act One precedes an exceptional Act Two, and two exceptional characters (and actors) are countered by two underwhelming ones.
In contrast to the New York compulsion to be out, seeing and being seen, Big Girl is a recluse. Overweight and burdened by a disturbing past, Big Girl refuses to leave her apartment, choosing instead to order in food, watch television marathons of 1980s sitcoms and cultivate a relationship with a now-dead, minor league celebrity and self-help guru (played
hauntingly by Maura M. Knowles; ironically, this professional "life coach" ended her own with an overdose). Threatened with eviction from her
apartment by a pregnant roommate and her burly boyfriend (who Big Girl is in love with), Big Girl's already questionable sanity begins to erode. By a
miscommunication, Big Girl's salvation comes in the form of a food deliveryman even more insane than she is becoming, and their struggle ultimately leads Big Girl to confront life rather than hide from it.
As the title character Big Girl, Andrea Alton is compelling, delicately blending sweet with sharp and mundane with insane. Offering the "takes one to know one" approach to curing Big Girl is Delivery Guy, dynamically played by Jesse Wilson. A breath of fresh air in an otherwise stale Act One, Wilson reappears in the second act and, in addition to dinner for two, delivers Alton an energy and tension level worthy of her Big Girl, and the struggle that ensues is engrossing.
Playwright Duffer's writing is sharp and insightful, perfectly synthesizing a mood of tragic reality and a comic sensibility, profound thoughts and pop-cultural humor. At times this sharpness is lost, particularly with regards to Big Girl's roommate Nicole and her boyfriend Mike, as played by Kimberly Prentice and Ray Crisara, respectively. Neither actor seems at ease with Duffer's words, with Crisara even seeming to choke on them. The first act falls flat with the unnecessary extended presence of these characters and the lack of any real tension or chemistry between Nicole, Mike and Big Girl. Perhaps this is a result of a poor casting combination, or perhaps because something about Nicole and Mike seems trivial – we know the story already (bad jobs and unwanted pregnancies), and in comparison with Big Girl's traumatic past and psychologically "iffy" present, these problems seem especially ordinary.
Is a flat first act worth experiencing to get to an excellent second act? If the play in question is BIG GIRL, LITTLE WORLD, the answer is "yes."