Friday, June 19, 2009

The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side

Grade: B

Written and Directed by Derek Ahonen. Produced by The Amoralists. At PS122. (CLOSED)

The Amoralists' stated goal of producing work "of no moral judgment" presents an obvious challenge for critics and aggregators of critics. And while the critics listed below cannot help but judge this three-act comedy-drama about contemporary bohemians, their inevitable judgments are rather more diverse than the flattened B grade above suggests. More than a couple reviews point out Ahonen's unpaid debt to Rent, but most forgive this and other shortcomings as part of the slacker spirit embodied in the show. This re-mount of a 2007 production features a couple new cast members and seems to leave everyone with something to think about afterwards. But in a sharp dissenting opinion from the other side of Washington Square Park, our bohemian standard-bearer, The Village Voice, finds Piper "cheap" and derivative.

Time Out New York A
(Adam Feldman) Ahonen has written full, complex characters, and the committed cast approaches them with sincerity and heart. This is exciting work, fresh and refreshing: The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side makes you want to follow the Amoralists wherever they go next. A
(Jon Sobel) Playwright Derek Ahonen has a finely tuned ear for the way his Communist-Anarchist-Environmentalist heroes and heroines talk. The play skewers their free-love and pop-psychology platitudes, while loving the characters to death at the same time. I say "the play" because while Mr. Ahonen may be responsible for the dialogue, the Amoralists truly are, as their mission statement proclaims, an "actor driven" company. It feels as if these actors were born to play these parts. The play is a perfect whole -- not for a second is the theatrical spell broken. And somehow the political and moral message survives all the mockery.

Off-Off Online A
(Doug Strassler) Ahonen’s play is never one-sided. We understand why Dear’s thinking is hopeful but flawed, and why Donovan’s philanthropy is so self-serving. He asks important questions and, while Pied Pipers offers plenty of reasons, leads the audience to arrive at their own answers to them. What is abundantly clear, however, is how important all six of Ahonen’s characters are to him as people. Love stories don’t come any purer than this. A-
(James Comtois) This is a wonderful show I had a great deal of fun with. It simultaneously deals with both abstract ideas and physical human behavior. Although it's not perfect—there are some subplots and ideas conveyed that are a little less developed than others—Ahonen's show, produced by The Amoralists, offers a fun, thought-provoking and sometimes intense night of theatre, something that's well worth the audience's time, attention, and money. A-
(Suzanna Bowling) In a sense this story is the cliche of what happened and is still happening to the East Side and in a less dramatic way to New York. The play is funny at times if not a little long. The actors are full of energy and flesh out the characters so we know exactly who these people are ... Presented by The Amoralists, it is fearlessness, intelligent, outrageous and real ... a must see.

The New Yorker B
(Branden Jacobs-Jenkins) What this nearly three-hour dose of high-energy Steppenwolf-style realism is doing at the avant-garde haven P.S. 122 is anyone’s guess. But the young company’s deep commitment and contagious exuberance—marred only by an eagerness to turn every scene into a screaming match, a handful of borderline overly passionate performances, and an extended instance of somewhat gratuitous full-frontal nudity—brings to mind the vitality that distinguished the early Off-Off Broadway work of artists like Sam Shepard only a generation ago. C
(Dan Avery) Pipers offers humor, titillating nudity and some interesting philosophical nuggets. But it’s not clear whether we’re supposed to embrace it’s radical theories or laugh at them.

The Village Voice D
(Miriam Felton-Dansky) It's easy to see Pied Pipers as an indictment of leftist Americans—scarfing soy cheese, spouting Zapatista chants, ignoring the capitalists keeping insolvency at bay. Ahonen doesn't pursue this theme, instead demanding sympathy for his brats while playing them for sitcom-style laughs: cheap nudity, vegan jokes. Like the original Pied Piper, these stinky bohemians don't lead us anywhere good.

Theatre Mania D
(Dan Bacalzo) In the first few minutes of Derek Ahonen's The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side, now at PS 122, characters scream at each other, throw things, do drugs, and make out. This pattern then continues, with slight variations, for two hours and 45 minutes, including two intermissions. While the production (also directed by Ahonen) is not without humor, it ultimately comes across as wearying and lacking depth.

Time Out New York A 13; A 13; Off-Off Online A 13; A- 12; A- 12; The New Yorker B 10; C 7; The Village Voice D 4; Theatre Mania D 4; TOTAL: 88/9 = 9.78 (B)

1 comment:

Aaron Riccio said...

You guys should update this original post with all of the reviews that have poured in following their subsequent two extensions. I think this show's a little underrated right now.