Hello Fringe Festival Fans!
Friday, August 10, 2012 saw the official opening of the 16th annual New York International Fringe Festival known the world over as:
“THE largest multi-arts festival in North America, featuring more than 200 companies from all over the world, performing for 16 days in over 20 venues” (from the website, www.fringenyc.org).
This is the latest offering put forth by the multi-talented Gary Morgenstein (novelist, web-series producer, and co-host of “Purple Haze” Blog Talk Radio show), whose previous works include “A Tomato Can’t Grow in the Bronx”, “Ponzi Man”, and “Mad Mel and the Marradians”.
Putting on the director’s hat for the first time, though by NO means new to the industry, is Noemi de la Puente. As a matter of fact, Ms. de la Puente wore two hats tonight, that of the lead actress as well as the director.
Ms. de la Puente’s past successes vary widely as a producer, a writer (“Generic Hispanic”, “Manuel v. the Statue of Liberty”, and “The Revenge of Suicide Jack”). Ms. de la Puente is also quite well known as a founding member of the Dramatic Question Theatre!
Briefly described as “love, sex, and politics!!”, “Right On Target” is about a conservative African American – who claims that he was fired from PBS for his politics – and his liberal Jewish wife.
“Right On Target” is a politically charged bipartisan, biracial romantic comedy, perfectly timed for our current national political environment, under the auspices of being less than 100 days from our next presidential election. “Right On Target” is a rapid fire, swiftly paced romantic comedy; based in a right v. left world, it does a fabulous job of poking fun at EVERYONE, no matter your leaning – NO demographic, lifestyle, creed, or religion is sacred!
“Right On Target” provides a great escape from our current reality, for a brief moment, to step back and laugh at each other and ONE’S self.
Simply put, “Right On Target” is the satirical comedic portrayal of a conservative African American who claims to have been fired from his job at PBS for his politics, and his wife’s attempts to attain the truth, and how the two deal with sudden unemployment and political backlashes. Benjy and Karen have a rocky marriage, to say the least, a marriage of 18 years, in the Washington, D.C. beltway. He having most recently worked for PBS, she trying to get going on the selling of her handmade seashell jewelry.
Upon his firing, Benjy and Karen enlist the help of her lawyer brother, Kenny Fine, and a conservative blogger, Julie Chin. Not to mention meddling interference from Susan Nagel, a PBS executive, who enters into a “more than just a friend” relationship with Karen, and ultimately becomes the opponent in a congressional race with Benjy. Oh, and let us not forget Dr. Fareed Morrar – the scene stealing Mr. Hummus delivery driver turned we radio producer in his spare time.
As with every foray into live acting, there are always lead actors and a supporting cast. I could rattle off all the cast members, and I will in short order, however, I would be remiss if I didn’t say that the cast in its entirety was more like a family.
The set itself was so Spartan, one really did get the impression that everything DID happen in the living room of the Harrisons; so Spartan that the imagination of the attendee worked overtime visualizing something more – so rich in its simplicity that it let the characters tell the story.
“Right On Target” ‘s lead characters, Benjy and Karen Harrison, played by the brilliant Robert McKay (an industry veteran, whose most notable works include appearances in “Ladder 49” and “The Wire) and the versatile Noemi de la Puente (director, producer, writer in her own right), play off of each other like they have known each other all their lives.
Their interactions, banters, repartees, are seamless, the timing impeccable. The object, it would seem, was to make Benjy and Karen polar opposites, on paper at least, though with a common ground – their love for each other. Having a lead actor stand at 6’4” and the lead actress a good foot shorter, added to the comedy of their relationship.
This play was so well written, it flowed masterfully through every scene, starting with Benjy coming home to Karen with his office in a box, to the very end when the lights dim with the leads in a joyful embrace, having gone full circle in their discord.
The supporting cast is made up of Tom Lacey (in the role of Kenny Fine, Karen’s brother), Janet S. Kim (in the role of Julie Chin, a conservative blogger), Jane Dashow (in the role of Susan Nagel, PBS big wig and eventual political foe to Benjy), and last, but not in the very least, Simcha Borenstein (in the role of Dr. Fareed Morrar, Syrian immigrant, dentist turned delivery man, and eventual web radio producer for Benjy). On the whole, each player has their separate role, and its delightfully played, but there is no sum without its pieces.
Upon his firing by Susan Nagel, Benjy enlists the aid of young and current conservative blogger, Julie Chin, with her phone attached to her fingertips, more than her hip. She see the plight of Benjy as her new cause. Every few seconds it seems either her or Benjy’s phone is going off due to a Google alert or a new tweet in support of Benjy.
Speaking of support for Benjy, Julie tries to “support” Benjy in ways he’s not really all that interested in – yes his marriage isn’t the best, but he is a man of ideals and principles, and holds fast in this beliefs and his wife.
Benjy and Karen also seek counsel from her brother, Kenny, feeling that he was wrongfully fired from PBS, though there is often more engagement between Karen and Kenny, and Kenny tends finds Benjy’s actions and appeals too much. Karen and Kenny are often seen quarreling about their parents, who had owned a Jewish deli in Madison, Wisconsin, who had had their deli boycotted when they chose to hang an Israeli flag.
This is important, because in the end, it is Karen that realizes that her parents did that to stand up for something they believed in, something that Benjy is doing now. In the middle of all of this are Susan Nagel and Fareed Morrar. Susan tries to “play” Karen against Benjy with the temptations of a contract to sell Karen’s jewelry, as well as the temptation of herself, with a comedy of gaffes ensuing in the interim before Karen finally “comes to her senses”.
And throughout the entire play are the not-so-random random appearances by Dr. Fareed Morrar. As previously mentioned, Fareed is a Syrian immigrant, tortured in his homeland for his beliefs; he cannot understand why Americans argue over such petty differences (in his eyes). Fareed’s part was so perfectly written, and played so perfectly well, the timing of the character is superb – his entrances with the food delivery, sometimes announced, sometimes not, sometimes walking in with Benjy; and then there’s his “side job” of producing Benjy’s web radio program IN BETWEEN deliveries!
“Right On Target” is just that – right on target: for the political climate, for the world we live in. Masterfully written, masterfully directed, and impeccably acted by a wonderfully assembled cast, “Right On Target” is one to see. It is perfectly paced, fast and flowing, one scene right into the next – I had no sooner sat down, than it seemed as if I were getting up for the standing ovation!
We often need a laugh, and we need TO laugh often, this play allows for both in its entirety – “Right On Target” is a good old fashioned harpooning of the right, left, and center of American politics, all the while undergoing a self examination of individuals, realizing that they are not that different despite their liberal and conservative labels, they are first and foremost husband and wife. Please take the time to see this remarkable play, there is a bit of each and every one of us in this production.
Additional showings of “Right On Target” are available this Saturday, August 18 at 12 noon; Wednesday, August 22 at 2PM; and Friday, August 24 at 4:15PM. Tickets are $15 in advance, $18 at the door. Please visit www.fringenyc.org or call 866-468-7619 for more information.
For your enjoyment we include below our recent exclusive You Decide interview with Gary Morgenstein and Noemi de la Puente who shared their considerable insight about the fabulous “Right On Target” stage play!
Thanks to Kenn for final audio and image staging, and many thanks to you for reading and for visiting WormholeRiders News Agency to read about our review of “Right On Target” at the wonderful Fringe Festival event in New York City!
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Love and regards,