Previews: 04/15/09- Close: 05/03/09
One Thing I Like To Say Is|
Reviewed for TheaterOnline.com By: Rob Staeger
Zach Veilleux ©2018 Kendra Mylnechuk, Michael Mattie
There is a house, and a girl, and a boy, and a butler, and a son and a grandson, and a husband and a wife. Not all of them are real, and all of them are pretending. Amy Fox’s unusual play, One Thing I Like to Say Is, is brought to complex and vibrant life in CockEyed Optimists Theatre Company’s production at Access Theatre in Chinatown. Directed by Terry Berliner, the production is a refracted, kaleidoscopic look at a fragmented family in which a brother and sister, Lena and Toby, constructed a fantasy world to cope with their upbringing – and how as adults these fantasies and the fears that fuel them keep them apart from the rest of the world, and each other.
Initially disorienting, One Thing I Like to Say Is slowly reveals how most of the characters (in some cases played by the same actors) relate to each other; the play demands—and rewards—close attention. Lena (played by Kendra Mylnechuk, and on other nights by Brenda Jean Foley) is a woman in her early thirties during much of the play’s action, although many scenes take place in her youth, recounted via a mix of her dubious memory and desperate imagination. Parallel narration is provided by Toby (Brian Gillespie), now married and in denial about his family history, whose recollection is slightly more reliable when he dares to think about it at all. Rounding out the cast are Jolie Curtsinger as Toby’s wife Sam, and Michael Mattie as Kevin, who might be one of the siblings’ son.
Zach Veilleux ©2018 Michael Mattie
The cast is uniformly excellent, engaging as they address the audience and compelling in their interactions with each other. Mylnechuk’s Lena reveals shades of self-awareness even as she is in the grip of her fantasies; as she tells her stories, she displays a touching, childlike urge to entertain. Gillespie’s brusque Toby is rougher, damaged more with anger than hurt. Mattie brings a heartfelt curiosity to the role of Kevin, and Curtsinger provides a relatable emotional anchor as the one character who didn’t grow up in the strained household. It’s not that she doesn’t have the same yearning for connection that the others do; she just goes about it differently, recording message after message on her answering machine, feeling a little more lost every time.
Wilson Chin’s set is the perfect illustration of the play’s theme: decorated in bright colors like a child’s room, it’s proportioned in half-sizes, with walls and furniture too small for the cast. The coping strategies that gave Lena and Toby a measure of freedom when they were children now only serve to confine them.
Access Theater : 380 Broadway, 4th Floor