“Miles for Mary,” directed by Lila Neugebauer, opened at The Bushwick Starr this past Saturday. It encapsulates the claustrophobic feeling of committee hell while delivering laughs and a real point about communication and how we do it wrong sometimes.
Six committee members who are also teachers at an Ohio high school, meet over the course of a year to plan a 24 (or maybe 26) hour telethon. Their one tangible accomplishment during the first meeting is an agreement to “do more.” So, with that directive in mind, the committee appears do very little, with hilarious and nearly touching consequences.
It would be difficult to pinpoint any performance as the best in this show. Each actor brings a different dynamic to the perfectly-dressed set, which is a 1980’s-era teachers’ break room— Perhaps the most authentic element of which is the utilitarian support post cutting its way through the space, with no regard for sight lines or space-saving.
Furthermore The Mad Ones is a truly collaborative troupe. Four of the six actors, along with the director, are credited as co-writers, and the remaining two actors are listed as contributors. And the spirit of collaboration is what makes the lack of collaboration in the story of the play so funny and visceral.
Standout moments include an argument about models of multi-line, hands-free telephones, an awkward gift exchange, and an argument about an unseen athlete affectionately named “Chooch.”
The interminable meeting structure of the play puts us in close proximity to the nonsense of it, but it does not leave much room for arc. Yes, it’s clear the group is hoping to execute a telethon, but most of the decisions they make do not put them closer to or further from their goal.
But that’s the whole point, right? Ruling by committee stunts decision making and leaves plenty of room for passive aggressive behaviors.
“Miles for Mary” runs for an hour and 45 minutes without intermission, and you can catch a performance between now and October 29.
Featured image: A still from “Miles for Mary” with actors Marc Bovino, Joe Curnutte, Michael Dalto, Amy Staats, and Stacey Yen. Photo Courtesy of The Bushwick Starr.