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BWW Review: THE 24 HOUR PLAYS Viral Monologues Continue Portraying Our New Normal

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BWW Review: THE 24 HOUR PLAYS Viral Monologues Continue Portraying Our New Normal

It's been a few weeks since The 24-Hour Plays began doing their "Viral Monologues" series, and the passage of time and the changes of those weeks are really starting to show up in the latest batch of performances. Now performed on nearly a weekly basis, the monologues are starting to vary more in theme and content, reflecting the shifting emotions we're all going through. Where the first couple of weeks heavily featured monologues directly about the pandemic situation, more and more of these recent monologues are changing direction, portraying the "new normal" with all that entails.

Dark humor permeates this batch of plays more than ever before. "A Taste of Old New York," written by Betty Samieh and performed by Armando Riesco, starts out with a shockingly dark premise: a man recording his suicide note at the top of a NYC building. "I can't off myself with my sunglasses on," goes one line early on, which gives a pretty good idea of the mundane-but-dark sensibility that permeates the piece. Without giving anything away, the resolution is hilariously on-point and pure New York.

Social media is the central theme of a lot of the plays in this round, with dating sites, viral videos, confessionals, and more all getting mined for format and content. It's a testament to how much of our world has shifted to taking place online right now, and it especially proves that this newly digitized world is just as rich with human foibles and humor as the "real" world is. Take, for instance, "Ana Banana's Dating Video," performed by Vella Lovell and written by Mara Nelson-Greenberg. What starts out as the dating-app intro video of a stereotypical, self-absorbed social media devotee spirals into gleeful parody with nonsensical, platitudinal lines like "May we all find the glory of our cores" and a dark twist. Imagine The Good Place's Tahani, but with 50% more perkiness, and you've got this deliciously ridiculous piece.

Michael Urie steals the "show" with his performance in David Lindsay-Abaire's "Six Feet Dipshit," framed as a response video to a "meltdown" video that's gone viral. It's packed with some of the funniest, sharpest, and most cutting lines in any of the scripts from this batch, full of witty comebacks and just the right amount of righteous anger. Underneath the humor, though, it's actually a pretty good representation of how stressed and snapping we're all getting. "We're not the people who we were, and it breaks my heart," Urie's character muses, and isn't that the truth.

There's also "Class 622: Mount Everest," a play by Michael Mitnick and performed by Ben Feldman, who plays a creepily enthusiastic fitness instructor giving a remote spin class. Over-the-top "motivational" platitudes are interspersed with some awkward oversharing. "Fitness is the way other people feel about you," Feldman's dudebro character intones.

That's not the most jaw-dropping entry in this week's monologues, though. That title would have to go to Christopher Oscar Peña's "Tiger Daddy," starring Raviv Ullman as a man making a "true confessions" video about - as you might have guessed by the title - the Netflix show Tiger King. Ullman's character reveals that he has a shocking tie to Joe Exotic himself. It's hilariously over-the-top in that sense of taking itself seriously but not seriously at all. The colloquial language and cadences make it feel bizarrely realistic, although I never need to hear the phrase "tiger daddy" ever again.

Although humor plays a big role in a lot of these plays, there are some real heartbreakers too. In "One Last Visit" by Joy Kecken, Crystal Dickinson plays a woman musing on the community where she's been staying during quarantine. It's very evocative and sad language, using oblique phrases like "most of the houses got paid a visit" to touch on the grief of everything while maintaining a distance. One gets the feeling that this is the way many of us would react (or have reacted) to our communities and neighbors falling ill. Similarly, Wayne Brady performs Roger Q. Mason's "Nadine," which starts out as a sweetly goofy "happy birthday" video to his character's significant other (the Nadine of the title), but as you might guess, there's a devastating twist that makes it one of the most affecting pieces of the batch.

We've all been locked down for a while at this point, and more than ever, we're needing something to express all the complicated emotions. It's not just grief or just fear or just some twisted sense of humor. We're all dealing with all of that, all thrown in a blender and dumped in our laps to deal with as best we can. At the very least, plays like these remind us we're not alone.

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From This Author Amanda Prahl