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BWW Reviews: THE BEST OF CRAIGSLIST is an Instant Classic

It happens rarely when the stars and planets align, and the right material finds its way into the hands of the right cast of young, immensely talented performers; but folks, it's happened. The Mothership has landed.

Repeat after me: "The Best of Craigslist." Now see it.

I suppose I could end there and pretend that you've gotten the message, but for the uninitiated let me explain further: when you are a young artist struggling for recognition and waiting for that big break, you dream of being part of a show that everyone will remember. Flying V Theatre, which we last saw with their loose and loopy "Pirate Laureate of Port Town," has created an unforgettable evening of theatre that touches you in more ways than you imagined possible. The standing ovation I witnessed last weekend was well deserved, and I hope is just one of many for the run of this show.

Conceived by Edward Daniels and directed with relish by Flying V Artistic Director Jason Schlafstein, "Best of Craigslist" is sunny, brash, pensive, touching, tearful, gleefully raunchy, and funny as hell. Working from verbatim internet posts the action, naturally enough, centers on single 20-somethings who (like the artists, I suspect) are stretching themselves in new directions, finding their place in the world, aware of what's missing and anxious for what's to come. Oh yeah, and they've also got some stuff to sell ya ...

Some in the cast are accomplished musicians, which means that we are also treated to original music composed by the ensemble for guitar, ukulele and even keyboard. The opening number, "I'd Love You to Run Into Me," written by the victim of a hit-and-run accident seeking a second encounter, marks the first of 30+ ingeniuously-staged monologues that cover the broad range of experiences with life in the big city. The cast is so dedicated to the material that I suspect if a routine tanks one night it will probably be a hit the next.

Highlights are hard to choose, especially since there is something for everyone: personal favorites include soft-spoken Nick Hagy's achingly funny blow-by-blow of the Hot Yoga Lesson From Hell, and his wicked nastygram to an ex-girlfriend (thinly masked as an attempt to sell her old dresser). Britt Duff not only handles her broadsword with class she gets to live out every girl's fantasy and slay a dragon live on-stage (no wimply-ass CGI required) when she's not bringing down the house with a letter to that mysterious creep who left a dead bird in her mailbox. Megan Westman transforms herself into a shy, spectacled geek, who can only use sci-fi jargon as she desperately seeks her first hook-up. Accompanied by the charming Edward C. Nagel on keyboard, Katie Nigsch-Fairfax gives a hilarious cabaret-style take on an ex-porn star in search of a 'member-less' male escort. Nagel, meanwhile, touches us with his account of adopting a baby kitten dumped by his car after work. And for sheer outrageous fun, nothing can beat Westman and Eugene Fertelmeyster, who burn off no end of calories as they demonstrate all the methods they used while competing with the noisy coital couple upstairs (all on dinky day-bed, no small feat that). But just when you think the show will use sexual innuendo as a crutch (like certain late-night talk show hosts whose name shall remain John Stewart), Fertelmeyster brings you to tears with a love letter to a girlfriend now deceased, describing how life has been since she passed away.

Set Designer Andrew Berry has created a flexible, multi-leveled playing space, and with Kristin A. Thompson's lights the small Writer's Center stage manages to accommodate a dizzying array of characters, as the small cast quick-changes and re-emerges in new personae every thirty seconds or so (or at least that's how it seemed). Neil McFadden, meanwhile, gives us his money's worth as his eclectic collection of sounds and audio clips cover scene changes throughout the show. Denise Umland, meanwhile, has managed the feat of creating a costume selection so large it must have taken all of the backstage area, and much of the dressing rooms, just to lay them out. And kudos to Jonathan Ezra Rubin for his ingenious stage combat (see "slay a dragon" above).

The production is a remarkable achievement, and one that should put Flying V at the top of everyone's list for theatre this month.

The Best of Craigslist runs June 14-30, 2013; Thursdays through Saturdays at 8pm, and Sundays at 2pm. Performances to take place at The Writer's Center, 4508 Walsh Street, Bethesda, MD.

Tickets for The Best of Craigslists are $10 and can be purchased through Brown Paper Tickets online at http://flyingv.brownpapertickets.com, or at the door starting one hour before the performance.

Shown here: Nick Hagy and Megan Westman. Photography by Ryan Maxwell.



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