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BWW Review: THE MOST AWKWARD LOVE LIFE OF PEABODY MAGOO Searches For Love at Philly Fringe

Writer/director Brandon Monokian's intimate and heartfelt THE MOST AWKWARD LOVE LIFE OF PEABODY MAGOO is a must see play at this year's Philly Fringe Festival.

Warm, funny, and embracing the awkwardness, Monokian's play wears its heart on its sleeve, and occasionally on the wall, in the best possible way. The cast is engaging and shares a great chemistry that really brings the production to life.

Scott Briedan embodied all the lovable awkwardness that you could hope for in the character. Briedan really conveys the sense of hope that Peabody somehow maintains despite the awkwardness life throws his way. Even when resigning himself to his fate, there is still that underdog pining for something better that still flickers within Peabody, and it is difficult to think anyone could have done a better job of conveying these complexities than Briedan.

Michelle Lupo does a great job of keeping the action moving along as the opinionated and guiding voice of the singing, guitar-playing narrator. Like all awkward people, of course Peabody has his very own narrator. The first strum of her guitar starts the show and she keeps it moving along. Quick, sardonic, and almost always quote-worthy, Lupo did a fantastic job of steering an awkward show in a wonderfully awkward way.

Rounding out the group were Katie Frazer and Caitlin Gutches who handled an entire lifetime's worth of characters spanning gender, age, and locality between the two of them. They both seamlessly transformed from middle school girls to New Jersey thugs to anything and everything else inbetween, while barely taking a second to catch their breath. Both actors were fantastic throughout. Frazer particularly shines as Peabody's girlfriend for an "awkward three months." Frazer's performance becomes in turns both funny and surprisingly moving and straight back to funny, a boomerang of emotions in a small but beautiful scene. One of the best parts of the entire show has to be Gutches's turn as a New Jersey psychic who is surprisingly and strangely accurate. Even though she knows what is going to happen, because duh she's a psychic, Gutches performance makes the character almost feel like an audience surrogate; the audience, too, knows things are going to go awkwardly for Peabody, yet it's impossible not to root for the guy.

None of this would be possible without the quick, funny, and tender writing and directing of Monokian. There are so many quote-worthy lines; I only wish I could remember them all. "Love is like a banana," "finding out your destiny is worth more than a chicken Caesar wrap," "he doesn't like Nerd-rope!" and too many more that are still rattling around in my brain and pop up at the most unexpected moments. Yet, with all the humor, Monokian like his "character with the most lines" Peabody (definitely not the hero or a hero) is a hopeful romantic. The earnestness of both playwright and character makes for a joyous, fun experience that leaves one believing in the possibility of love, even for the most awkward amongst us.

[William Way LGBT Community Center, 1315 Spruce Street] September 4-19, 2015, tickets

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