MvVO Art Launches AD ART SHOW
Off Broadway

Second Stage’s Make Believe Flies to the Stars on the Wings of Trauma

Second Stage’s Make Believe Flies to the Stars on the Wings of Trauma

There are numerous funny stories that we all have about our childhood, so they say in Make Believe, the new play by Bess Wohl (Small Mouth Sounds) that is darkening our summer days in the best of all possible ways.  They tell us that we thought we were safe back then, even though most of us rode our bikes down the streets without helmets and survived to tell the tales of our childhood, but through Wohl’s fierce dialogue and formulations, we locate the hard truth as we become better acquainted with the four dynamic Conlee kids, who are aggressively playing house in their airy attic in order to push away the fear that slowly rises up inside them. Their games start to foreshadow a dangerous despair and a rupture that will have them scared and ‘howling at the moon” in hunger while making our own hearts skip a few beats from nervousness.  With director Michael Greif (Broadway’s Dear Evan Hansen) at the helm guiding this spooky ghost story, the realization that these four are on their own for longer than what’s reasonable starts to sink in and make us uncomfortable. Their parents have inexplicably disappeared, leaving them to “rot or get burned” in the uneasy channeling of their elders. The opening is a wildly tension building set-up, one that goes on a bit too long for its own good, but in the adult end, the device works, as the weight is fully implanted for their return thirty-two years later. The Conlees gather, hiding from the Scandinavians and embracing their past selves, searching for answers through the broken down left overs of this not so big happy family and hoping for resolution and relief.

MAKE BELIEVE BY BESS WOHL DIRECTED BY MICHAEL GREIF WITH KIM FISCHER, SUSANNAH FLOOD, RYAN FOUST, HARRISON FOX, MAREN HEARY, BRAD HEBERLEE, CASEY HILTON, SAMANTHA MATHIS

Bess Wohl digs down deep for her return to Second Stage Theater, looking inside the minds and hearts of children, their parents, and the injuries endured in their collective childhood that will haunt them forever. The four young children; young Kate adultly portrayed by Maren Heary, young Chris played with a hard edge by Ryan Foust (2ST’s Mary Page Marlowe), young Addie, delicately played by Casey Hilton, and young Carl doggedly played by Harrison Fox; travel deep into space looking for a way to understand their troubled angry parents while trying to take care of their past presently. Survival tactics unravel deeper cuts that never seem to heal, even when held so secretly under an immature aggressive stance.  The four young actors do a fantastic job mimicking the horridness of adults, while systematically letting us into their pain and fear. It all unravels for longer than need be as they slowly become more difficult to take in and engage with. The writing traps the kids in their own foul mouthed family play, even when as well portrayed as they are.

MAKE BELIEVE BY BESS WOHL DIRECTED BY MICHAEL GREIF WITH KIM FISCHER, SUSANNAH FLOOD, RYAN FOUST, HARRISON FOX, MAREN HEARY, BRAD HEBERLEE, CASEY HILTON, SAMANTHA MATHIS

Finally, the shift happens, and the young and wise Kate transforms into the brittle wise adult Kate, dynamically embodied by Samantha Mathis (Broadway’s 33 Variations). She’s hiding out in that same attic, unintentionally unearthing adult Addie, gorgeously portrayed by the magnificently fun Susannah Flood (Barrow St’s The Effect), acting out some tension and awkwardness with the handsome smart Chris, beautifully played by the subtle Kim Fischer (Third Rail’s Then She Fell). This is where the piece finally finds its beating heart and rhythm, especially when the distracted dog-eared Carl, tensely played with intelligence and unhinged anger by Brad Heberlee (PH’s A Life) arrives determined to be and not be present within the same breath. His disconnection paired beside his delayed powerhouse speech shifts their history and unmasks the pain-filled ghosts floating through the attic air.

MAKE BELIEVE BY BESS WOHL DIRECTED BY MICHAEL GREIF WITH KIM FISCHER, SUSANNAH FLOOD, RYAN FOUST, HARRISON FOX, MAREN HEARY, BRAD HEBERLEE, CASEY HILTON, SAMANTHA MATHIS

Make Believe is dense with wise and weighty dust, forever floating and unsettled in their remembrance of it all. It cuts and bruises our childhood selves with a telling ease, played out with dynamic directness on that beautifully erected set by David Zinn (Broadway’s Choir Boy), with delicately entwined costuming by Emilio Sosa (Public’s Eve’s Song), subtle lighting shifts by Ben Stanton (Broadway’s JUNK), and strong original music and sound design by Bray Poor (Broadway’s True West). The set-up serves the adults well, giving us ample bits of knowledge through deviously delightful pre-recorded audio performances from the likes of Anne Boxley Bowles, Danny Burstein, Heberlee, and Jennifer Laura Thompson. In Fischer’s Chris we find a good heartbeat that we can attach to, but it is Mathis and Flood that rule the attic floor, giving us a vantage point of historical painfulness that resides under the ghostly bruises that have since vanished. I’m not going to try to “wing the ending“, finding a way “to pull it all together” in this last sentence. I’ll just let the childhood dust settle as it may, because it will, most emphatically do just that, on our adult skin and in our soul, making it difficult to forget these kids and the damaged adults they grow up to be. Even when they succeed in a way their parents weren’t able to.

MAKE BELIEVE BY BESS WOHL DIRECTED BY MICHAEL GREIF WITH KIM FISCHER, SUSANNAH FLOOD, RYAN FOUST, HARRISON FOX, MAREN HEARY, BRAD HEBERLEE, CASEY HILTON, SAMANTHA MATHIS

Off Broadway
@#frontmezzjunkies

My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my last...so far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

More in Off Broadway

In Jaclyn Backhaus Wives We Are Asked to Bond and Untie

Suzanna BowlingSeptember 17, 2019

To Poe or Not to Poe

Suzanna BowlingSeptember 17, 2019

The Interview: Dimitri Moise Talks About Giving the Public As Much As I Can

RossSeptember 16, 2019

American Moor Powerfully Projects Forth Wisely

RossSeptember 16, 2019

Da Vinci & Michelangelo: The Titans Experience Not As Cool As Mark Rodgers Thinks

Suzanna BowlingSeptember 14, 2019

In Conversation With Keith Hamilton Cobb of American Moor

Suzanna BowlingSeptember 14, 2019

Lois Robbins L.O.V.E.R. Redeems Itself After All The Boyfriends and Sex

Suzanna BowlingSeptember 14, 2019

See You The Social Media Obsession Play

Suzanna BowlingSeptember 14, 2019

Raul Esparza, Krysta Rodriguez and the Cast and Creatives of Theresa Rebeck’s New Play Seared Meet The Press

Suzanna BowlingSeptember 13, 2019