Coney Island Avenue
Charles Mee's collage-like exploration of Brooklyn is vividly brought to life by a large, multi-ethnic ensemble.
The piece is an exploration of Brooklyn and the diversity of its inhabitants, represented here by a rather large, multi-ethnic cast. Throughout the 90-minute performance, various characters introduce themselves to the audience with short statements that briefly encapsulate something about them. These bits are actually additions to Mee's text by the director and actors, and are often quite funny -- or just a bit bizarre.
However, there are several characters, written by Mee, who make repeat appearances, such as Harry (well played by Max Jenkins), who begins the show by reading from Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. The closest the piece ever gets to a linear narrative is the story of Yusef (Sam Ghosh) and Anna (Nitya Vidyasagar). Exhausted from late-night conversations, the frustrated Yusef tells Anna to leave their apartment and go back to her father's house. As a concession, he tells her she can bring whatever she loves or cannot live without. So, she waits until he's asleep and then takes him. It's a sweet love story embedded into Coney Island Avenue, as the slumbering Yusef is taken through the streets of Brooklyn, as well as his own dreamland. Somewhere along the way, there's even a fabulous Bollywood dance sequence.
Several performers make memorable impressions, such as Angela Bonacci as a strong-willed Ukranian woman, and Jennifer Leigh Cohen, who performs a manic dance that has her literally throwing herself against the walls of the space. In fact, while the cast is uneven in its acting ability, nearly all of them commit fully to their physical intentions, and come together as a strong ensemble.
Another crucial component of the production is the use of video, produced and filmed by Christopher Zalewski, that is projected onto a large screen at the back of the space. The images do not necessarily directly correlate to the spoken text, but often provide an atmospheric backdrop to what's happening onstage. Additionally, the footage incorporates a couple of monologues by a YouTube personality known as "The Kid from Brooklyn," with a sequence about Starbucks being one of the show's highlights.