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Open: 08/14/10- Close: 08/25/10 Monetizing Emma
Reviewed for By: Jennifer Rathbone

In the wake of the sub-prime mortgage eruption, Felipe Ossa’s new dramatic comedy, Monetizing Emma, which premiered at Planet Connections Theatre Festivity 2009, and appears currently during FringeNYC’s 14th season, shakes a fist at the scheming, corporate executives, who have manipulated American grantees.  Ossa addresses the essence of the socio-economic crisis by fabricating a hyperbolized scenario of mortgaging a teenage girl’s future.  Ossa’s absurdist style of content and duplicitous language surrounds the plot in an effective haze of confusion, despair, and humor.

Felipe Ossa has crafted a play that capitalizes on current events, pop culture, and ideological sentiment for humanity (through the eyes of a teenage girl, Emma) to rediscover independence.  Through Emma’s perspective, GT, enterprising under Thackeray Walsh, LLC, unveils new opportunities to advance her future.  However, her new life comes at an extreme cost and she grapples with coming of age in this new identity. 

Through an online avatar, Emma, who enjoys using the linguistics of her favorite author, Jane Austen, formulates her thoughts.  Scenes shift simply through the use of these internet diaries.  Director, Leah Bonvissuto, has tied Emma’s monologues into the thread that links the characters and the plot.  New settings emerge by Bonvissuto’s imaginative integration of the characters Emma is writing about into these monologue scenes:  relating to Emma; serving as background; and even acting as stage crew to shift scenery.  The tag-team effort of playwright, Ossa, and director, Bonvissuto, constructs a vibrantly engaging and absurd world of theatre, in which the actors explore dynamic performances.   

The cast adeptly parries the dramatic and the absurd aspects of Monetizing Emma.  James Arden*cleverly creates the frat-boy, top dog image of the GT Executive, Tony.  Janice Mann’s* charming lady turned cut-throat power-monger, expertly portrays the deceit of Colleen’s nature.  Dawn Jamieson* uses space and movement efficiently to develop the character of Emma’s mother, Caroline.  Daniella Rabbani* nimbly plays the ditsy side-kick, Vanessa, to Tovah Rose’s Annie.  Nitya Vidyasagar* eloquently embraces the Austen-inspired language of the internet monologues and dexterously crafts the voice and physical mannerisms of the insecure teenage genius, Emma.  If at times, the cast appears as archetypes, Vidyasagar’s Emma boldly surfaces as the honest heroine.

Monetizing Emma has already been recognized with awards for "Outstanding Playwriting for a New Script of a Play" (Felipe Ossa), "Outstanding Direction" (Leah Bonvissuto), and "Outstanding Overall Production of a New Play," in 2009.  On opening night, with a full house, this revived production for FringeNYC stands to prove an entertaining and gratifying work, yet again.  Emancipating Emma’s humanity from the clutches of two-timing corporate bankers rallies anyone’s spirits for an America, reborn from the recent socio-economic conditions of the late 2000’s.

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