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Next Door @ NYTW, New York City

Skinnamarink
3.0Reviewer's Rating

Whether you spent your grade school years in the comfort of liberal counseling, or hoping the nun’s ruler didn’t catch you, you’ll like relate to the barefaced indoctrination on full display in theater troupe Little Lord’s newest work. The artists creating it and watching it are no doubt in agreement about the ridiculousness of the educational system, and this consensus plays to its strength and weakness in its exposition of the obvious. Skinnamarink is about is irreverent and nostalgic as a string of Peanuts comics, but with a larger dose of irony; and this time, the authority figure has a voice.

Based on the reading books entitled “McGuffey’s Eclectic Readers”, a now centuries-old series, the troupe of nameless and identically-clad school children (complete with scotch tape to turn up their noses) guide themselves through the most tedious and recognized exercises, with the disturbingly bland-voiced teacher over the loudspeaker chiming in occasionally. Perhaps intentionally, very few remarks from the actors are made outside what’s in the book, which also heightens the fact that little of the source material comes from the heart. It’s absurdism, but with a square-ness that keeps it within certain bounds. The commitment to this style is certainly admirable, and genuinely reveals what Little Lord is getting at.

The re-interpretations of these classic and mundane exercises make for opportunities for satire even if their effect goes as far as a sight gag, including a bit with peanut butter that keeps on giving, and the performance of the title song (this one lands best). These vignettes compose a bulk of the play, giving away the extent of the game-play in the first minutes, starting with when every actor is revealed to be wearing an identically-patterned teal outfit and misshapen blonde wigs. The creators stay true to their source material, and they’re careful not to place verbal comment and allow for the absurdity to speak for itself. But it makes for a sort of monotony, one you might encounter in the “McGuffey” series itself.

  • Comedy
  • Created by Michael Levinton and Little Lord
  • Directed by Michael Levinton
  • Cast includes: Kaaron Briscoe, Joshua William Gelb, Fernando Gonzalez, Michael Levinton, Meg MacCary, Morgan Lindsey Tachco, Laura von Holt, Kate Weber
  • Next Door @ NYTW, New York City
  • Until 23 March 2019

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