Entertainment » Theatre

7 Stories

by Ellen Wernecke
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Wednesday Aug 13, 2008
7 Stories

A mysterious man in anachronistic dress prepares to commit suicide, yet the problems of the building he is about to hurl himself from keep drawing him back into the human comedy therein. Morris Paynch's 20-year old play thankfully doesn't steer itself into After School Special Land (although it skirts that ledge), and the 7 Stories production now playing at the Gene Frankel Theatre doesn't go there either but is constrained by that high-concept premise throughout.

The man (Erica Terpening-Romeo -- yes, Erica - pleasantly understated for a head case) would be dead in ten minutes were it not for the couple fighting so violently that he's afraid the woman (Alice Kremelberg) may precede him off the ledge. The paranoid hypochondriac psychiatrist (Thomas Patel) isn't much help, but at least Marshall, the immaculately attired British man at the far window (Connor Paolo) seems to be more than what he claims. An old woman (Kremelberg again) and her caretaker (Toni-Ann Gardiner) may also be able to offer help, if they can look past their own problems and into the man's for a second.

And that's the other problem with Paynch's play. After an hour in which no one has bothered asking the man what he's doing out there, one starts to suspect the floor in question has a residency requirement: You Must be This Self-Centered to Live Up Here. So it's hard to care about even the best acted parts when they only make us want to jump. But director Greg T. Parente keeps the action moving along at a decent clip and his young cast members, almost all of whom play multiple parts, prove they have the chops to embody different (if unlikeable) people. "Counterfeit emotion is really my style," Marshall proclaims from the far window, but these people are believably ugly, except for the man -- a cipher by design until the play's final moments, when he goes through his own small epiphany.

7 Stories runs through August 24 at the Gene Frankel Theatre, 24 Bond Street. For schedule, ticket prices and more information visit the Gene Frankel’s website.

Ellen Wernecke’s work has appeared in Publishers Weekly and The Onion A.V. Club, and she comments on books regularly for WEBR’s "Talk of the Town with Parker Sunshine." A Wisconsin native, she now lives in New York City.


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