Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of your life, you’ll regret not seeing this movie fan’s delight which probes that love and others.
BY ELLEN WERNECKE
Arden (Katie Cappiello) and Johnny (Brandon Scott) have been sleeping together and bouncing movie trivia off each other for four years, without the relationship ever getting serious. Now Johnny’s planning to move to Los Angeles with his new girlfriend, Natalie (Nila K. Leigh), also a film buff but one whose tastes for the French New Wave clash with Arden’s love for Tarantino and Reds. One night in Johnny’s dirty apartment, the two joust and spar like Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, with the participation of Natalie and Johnny’s roommate, Plato (Christian Durso), who come in mid-argument.
Since the characters of Cinephilia connect on movies, they are unable to communicate without quoting from movies over and over again -- movies from Annie Hall to Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, from Empire Records to Good Will Hunting. These are the sort of folks who joke about bad sex: “It could be worse, I could be watching Pearl Harbor right now.” Johnny’s TV set is tuned to Last Year at Marienbad and Plato describes the moment when, leaving a one-night-stand’s apartment, he catches a glimpse of an original poster for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and finds it difficult to go. Writer Leslye Headland’s long nights cuddling with her DVD player have clearly paid off. (One wonders how she will so exhaustively research the other plays in her deadly sins series, of which this play -- representing lust -- is the first.) My favorite joke was when Natalie, coming up the stairs to Johnny’s apartment, calls offstage “New York Herald Tribune!" It's a moment which immediately sets up the contrast between Natalie and Arden, who have not yet met, while sealing its film cred.
This game of conversational brinkmanship between them has created a sort of emotional shorthand between Arden and Johnny that makes it impossible for them to confront the consequences of their actions. They may begin the play on opposite ends of the narrow stage but, thanks to Michael Silverstone’s expert direction, are unable to get away from one another. Johnny squirms when Arden tries to use this physical proximity to assert their connection, and Natalie doesn’t understand their game, which frustrates her. They can admit to loving the movies; loving each other is harder. (In addition, Plato seems to be nourishing some crush on both his roommate and Arden, which drives him to distraction.) For our sad young cinematic friends, movie mania is a too-comfortable substitute for the real decisions they have to make about who to trust, but Cappiello and Scott’s easy chemistry makes it believable.
Through June 15 at the Studio Theatre, Theatre Row (410 W. 42nd Street)
For more information and to reserve tickets, visit PossEbleTheater.com
According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.