by Steven Cherry · August 17, 2015
The Stella is a hoot!
I can unequivocally recommend it—after all, if you don’t like over-the-top bawdy anti-lawyer farces, what are you doing reading FringeNYC Festival reviews? Admittedly, it’s conceivable that someone wouldn’t thoroughly enjoy The Stella. After all, this reviewer and a companion walked out of playwright Gregg Greenberg’s Clemenza and Tessio Are Dead at intermission. We were clearly out of step—that 2009 FringeNYC show was wildly popular, selling out every performance. It’s 2015, and I’m a Gregg Greenberg believer now.
In The Stella, a foul-mouthed racist personal injury lawyer mentors and horribly, hysterically abuses a newly-hired Brooklyn Law School graduate. Meanwhile, a white-shoe Ivy-League personal injury attorney guides a likable but malleable client through a dishonest (his injuries are entirely of his own making) lawsuit. The two lawyers are not only on opposing sides, they have an ancient connection and long-standing animosity.
In Act I, Greenberg does as skillful a job of disclosing backstory and exposition as you're likely to see this year by alternating short, at times side-splittingly humorous, two-man scenes between the racist blowhard and his mentee and the condescending pedant and his client. Each new scene picks up where the last one left off. A fifth character, the defendant, appears in the second act, in a long scene that sets up the funny—and clever—final climax.
At an efficient 90 minutes (there is no intermission), never profound but always irreverent, The Stella will have you rolling in the aisles. Go see it—before it’s sold out.