In a town where all attention is on blockbuster films during the month of May, it's hard to remember that we're also home to passionate stage actors and a vibrant indie theater scene. And nowhere is that more apparent right now than the latest iteration of Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side at the Matrix Theater.
Written and directed by Derek Ahonen, the play may be set in NYC, but the bohemian ethos would feel entirely at home in any Venice apartment complex. If you've heard of the play before, it might be because of the nudity. Yes, there's full frontal from both the male and female performers. But since you can get that on demand on your smartphone, it's probably not the reason you'll buy tickets -- at least not the primary reason.
The action launches in a pig sty of an apartment where four radicals/idealists reside as part of the kind of well-meaning free love scenario that never quite works out. Billy (Adam Brooks), a drug addict who fancies himself a radical journalist, invites his macho college-aged brother Evan (Ben Reno) to visit only to struggle to explain his alternative lifestyle. His free-spirited and confrontational roommates, Wyatt (Jordan Tisdale), Dear (Agatha Nowicki) and Dawn (Heather Mertens) encourage Evan to take pride in his life choices.
The action stays in the apartment, but the dialogue keeps up an engaging and rapid fire pace, revolving around topical issues such as food production, sexual taboos and gentrification. When the roommates' patron Donovan (Patrick Scott Lewis) appears, the story really kicks in to high gear, exposing the radicals as less than their ideals, but more than the forces that promise to tear them apart.
The high-energy characters are fun, articulate and quite educational, leaving you feeling like you not only witnessed a compelling dramedy, but learned something in the process. These aren't your typical rebels without a cause, they're fully realized and original characters whose thwarted dreams and desires will haunt you long after the actors leave the stage.
If you're looking for an alternative to the blockbuster fare in the multiplex this May, take the time to meet the Pied Pipers.