by Everett Goldner · August 20, 2015
The title of The Princeton Seventh tells you what to expect; we’re in for an hour and a half of actors playing writers talking about writers who need to talk about academia. Cultural icons both real – Salinger, et al – and imagined will be name-dropped and checked, dirt on ex-wives will be dished and people who came from hermetically sealed Ivy league enclaves will be admired like gods. When the first ten minutes unfolded as expected, I began to think the play would take itself too seriously to entertain and that I would spend this review telling you how tedious it all was.
Fortunately, this is not the case. Much of the dialogue does have a kind of do-si-do quality, as writers hanging out in a bar play one-upsmanship games with each other (Faulkner drank this kind of scotch, Kipling drank that kind of whiskey); a play without aspirations would have stayed on this level throughout and been content to grab whatever laughs it could. Princeton Seventh goes just a bit deeper than that, making its verbal tangos into a parcel of the play’s structure itself.
The cast fills out their roles well (it’s the kind of show where you can see that everyone was cast to a very specific type); a bookish nerd who may or may not be a reclusive genius has the right amount of obnoxiousness; the guy who writes thrillers they sell at the drug store has the right amount of gladhandedness; a diva-esque Nobel laureate has the right amount of exclamatory hyperbole.
What you see is essentially the same story told twice, the second telling – without spoiling anything – throwing the identities of everyone in the first one into question.
You shouldn’t see it expecting anything profound, but what’s offered in the brief FringeNYC synopsis is exactly what’s delivered – an amusing diversion with a clever twist that’ll get you talking on the way out the door.