by Collin McConnell · January 19, 2015
Jesse Geguzis, Jordan Tierney | Kacey Stamats
"You. Say something nice to me."
I, um, really like your glasses. They look really good on you.
That was about the best I could do among the tumultuous, high-flying emotional circus that was Mrs. Mayfield's Fifth-Grade Class of '93 20-Year Reunion. While Amanda was off being a terrible hostess with her ex-boyfriend Jason, Robin and Crystal got in a huge fight and I got stuck in the living room with Crystal and a totally zonked (and, therefore, useless) Veronica. I really like Crystal, but I didn't really have anything nice to say then. I felt kind of bad about it.
And that's the thing: we all grow up, we all change, but we're always being mean, and then we're always finding reasons and ways to be nice.
The reunion takes place at Amanda's apartment (no really - east village, fifth-floor walk up). She's gotten everyone together because she, like the rest of us, received a letter from our fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Mayfield (well, not her, but her husband - and the letter wasn't from him, but from our ten-year-old selves. You remember, the time-capsule project?). It brought up a lot of stuff for her, specifically about Joey's brother, Billy, and thought this might be good for us. Healing, in a way. I guess.
But not really. Exes are reunited, marriages are on the rocks, old crushes re-emerge, and terrible secrets surface. So grab a drink, pop some molly, smoke some weed, maybe have sex with someone on the couch, and try and remember that dance Mrs. Mayfield taught us back in the fifth grade, because memories are tough and wounds aren't really healing.
The conflicts MacCarthy has crafted are deceptively simple — familiar, and thus real, yet packed with power by confronting nostalgia with the present, and always living on the edge between love and fear, life and death. The story (their stories) flow seamlessly — naturally — between those dichotomies, finding and playing with the rhythms of hormones, of memories, of vices — of a house party filled with people you know who aren't quite old friends. This is all driven, of course, by MacCarthy's incredible knack for filling the text with the absurd, the dark, the honest, and the simply realistic.
One of the specific oddities and joys I found in this production was the way in which I often recognized myself in the space. Unlike Sleep No More (which I love), there is nothing to hide behind, and I found myself needing to confront being a participant (if not active, at least passive) in uncomfortably private conversations. However, there was also nothing to chase. It's a house party, in a small New York apartment — everything happens almost all around you. Often I would choose to fully emerge myself in a conversation, but on occasion I found myself standing in doorways, listening and watching several events play out at once, allowing the evening to wash over me in (perhaps) a sick voyeuristic glee. (Many kudos to director Leta Tremblay for building the world so cleanly and clearly, allowing the scenes to flow so neatly over each other, filled with such specificity and nuance that the journey remains clear from the outside, but riddled with great gems for those daring enough to get close.)
There is much more I could say, about how incredible (and incredibly dedicated) each performer is with the specificity of their character (the strange and welcoming sensitivity of Adam La Faci's Jason, the simple hidden vulnerability of Jordan Tierney's Joey, the emotional turns Diana Oh can make so quickly and utterly natural as our host Amanda, the wonderful honesty of Lauren Hennessy as Crystal, Jesse Geguzis' joyfully odd Jamie, and all the other performers and characters I didn't get nearly enough of an opportunity to get to know at the party), or about any other amazing aspect of the show. But ultimately, the point is, this brilliant ensemble has crafted one of the more interesting, and certainly the most moving of house parties that I have ever been to.