By Pete McElligott; Directed by Patrick Vassel
Produced by Ten Bones Theatre Company
Off Off Broadway, Play
Runs through 9.24.17
The Wild Project, 195 East 3rd Street
by Aiden Dreskin on 9.14.17
Luis-Daniel Morales, David Triacca, and Jeb Kreager in In a Little Room. Photo by Zachary Zirlin.
BOTTOM LINE: An absurd, dark comedy about two strangers in a hospital, waiting for their lives to restart, or maybe to end.
Pete McElligott's In a Little Room seems like a very simple play at first. Two men sit in a hospital waiting room, each waiting for something to happen, and also sort of hoping it won't. After accidentally spilling coffee on someone sleeping in a chair between them, the men launch into a ninety-minute dialogue in which they argue about life and death and ethics and a personality quiz they find in a nearby teen magazine. As they argue, they get to know each other. They share their problems and they start to hate each other. But no matter what happens, neither leaves the waiting room—not even when the entire building may be burning down around them. After all, it might not actually be burning, and if it is, the waiting room might still be the safest place.
In a Little Room is an Absurd play, by the most literal definition. Not a lot happens outside of the action between between Charlie (Luis-Daniel Morales) and Manning (Jeb Kraeger) as they weave their way through a variety of existential hypotheticals, hoping to distract themselves from the world that might be burning to the ground down the hall. Nonetheless, they get so caught up in their own head games that I couldn't help but ride along as the conversation slipped from penis jokes and imaginary phone calls to truly heartfelt commentary about grief and the choices we all make in life. It is a testament both to McElligott's writing and Patrick Vassel's direction that these transitions are seamless, switching back and forth so much that at times I wasn't sure whether to laugh, or cry, or both. The progression of events is clever and fast-paced so there is never a dull moment, despite the obviously stagnant nature of the circumstances.
The play relies heavily on its performers nailing both the verbal and physical comedic timing, and Morales and Kraeger shoulder that weight with skill and dedication. They're both incredibly endearing, and their substantial chemistry kept me totally rapt. Even in moments of silence and stillness, I felt I was waiting with them as much as I was waiting for them. Their immersion into these roles speaks to the love they must have for their characters, a love I shared by the time I walked out of the theater.
I must give special mention to David Triacca, who plays a number of other characters; Triacca makes each one unique and interesting, despite the fact that they are all basically identical in appearance. There isn't much more to say about In a Little Room without spoiling various plot elements, and I wouldn't want to ruin those incredible moments. Suffice to say, there is really something here for everyone, and anyone who makes their way to the Wild Project in the next couple weeks is in for a treat. In a Little Room is dark, funny, witty, and most importantly, sincere. I can't recommend it enough.
(In a Little Room plays at The Wild Project, 195 East 3rd Street, through September 24, 2017. The running time is 90 minutes without intermission. Performances are Tuesdays through Fridays at 7:30; Saturdays at 2 and 7:30; and Sundays at 2. Tickets are $15 and are available at tenbones.org or by calling 866-811-4111. For more information visit tenbones.org.)
In a Little Room is by Pete McElligott. Directed by Patrick Vassel. Set and Graphic Design is by Zachary Zirlin. Costume Design is by Evan Prizant. Lighting Design is by Katy Atwell. Stage Manager is Emma C. Olson.
The cast is Jeb Kraeger, Luis-Daniel Morales, and David Triacca.