Review: Breaking Up Is Hard To Do In The Flea’s ‘FILL FILL FILL FILL FILL FILL FILL’
By Justin Sharon, Contributing Writer, February 5, 2018
Just in time for Valentine’s Day comes the world premiere of FILL FILL FILL FILL FILL FILL FILL, a play about the wreckage — both emotional and physical — that often accompanies a bitter breakup. This Flea Theater production centers on suddenly single Joni as she retraces the arc of a newly ended relationship with Noah, her musician boyfriend of five years. Written by Steph Del Rosso and directed by Marina McClure, the plot features a dizzying array of Millennial doctors, baristas and bartenders in ‘some sensory-overloaded city.’
Techno music sets the manic tone from the start and ensures you won’t doze. Joni is a whirling dervish of madcap energy, belying her day job working for a textbook company. Sarah Chalfie imbues the central character with impressive physical energy, doing jumping jacks in one scene and showing off her singing and dancing chops in another. Noah, a navel-gazing cad who subjects Joni to a very public split, is inherently unsympathetic but Roland Lane’s love-to-hate portrait is effective. The talented cast also includes an ex-Pilates teacher Lisa (Valeria Avina), her square-jawed beau Ray (Joseph Huffman), and Joni’s longtime friend Kate (Monique St. Cyr), newly engaged to Ken doll partner Doug (Jonathon Ryan). Ben Schrager also does sterling service as Todd the waiter.
An eclectic plot encompasses everything from acupuncture prescriptions to outtakes of Annie, with an awkward threesome thrown in for good measure. This being experimental theater not everything comes off, but the best bits make it worthwhile. One standout comedic scene involves a game show called “The Perfect Women,” a latter day Love Connection in which three contestants try to pull the Chuck Woolery over our eyes with their self-serving answers. Amid the slapstick, FILL also more seriously manages to ponder Mars/Venus misunderstandings. Although offering no definitive answers it keeps raising meaningful questions until literally the end, with the script ending on the existential “Are you lonely?”
And besides, where on Broadway are you able to see the performers milling around in the lobby chatting to theatergoers immediately after the show, as was the case with the performance I attended? Good luck experiencing something similar at Hamilton.
FILL FILL FILL FILL FILL FILL FILL presented by The Flea Theater, 20 Thomas Street, through February 25, 2018. Run time 85 minutes with no intermission. Written by Steph Del Rosso. Directed by Marina McClure; scenic design by You-Shin Chen; costume design by Kate Fry; lighting design by Reza Behjat; sound design by Ben Vigus. Cast: Valeria A. Avina, Sarah Chalfie, Joseph Huffman, Roland Lane, Maggie McCaffery, Jonathon Ryan, Ben Schrager, and Monique St. Cyr.
Cover: (front row) Sarah Chalfie and Jonathon Ryan, (back row) Ben Schrager, Monique St. Cyr, Valeria A. Avina, and Joseph Huffman; photo: Hunter Canning.