THEATRE IS EASY
By Sean Pollock; Directed by Colleen E. Hughes
Produced by Playlight Theatre Company
Off Off Broadway, Solo Show
Ran through 9.24.16
Under St. Marks, 94 St. Marks Place
by Katharine Nedder on 9.26.16
BOTTOM LINE: Jellybean Junkyard is a hilarious but tragic glimpse into the disturbed mind of a well-meaning sanitation worker.
Jellybean Junkyard follows the inner/outer monologue of the lovably awkward antihero Dorcas Pinkleberry (Natalia Lopresti) as she cleans a Staten Island junkyard. The stage is strewn with refuse—empty cans, old bags, and the like—and even the audience is made to feel "like trash," as they are constantly referred to by Dorcas. As she begins to clean, she expresses a need to tell her story and her innermost secrets to the “trash” around her. She begins with her childhood, hilariously changing each name she mentions to a food-wrapper-inspired alias (to prevent identity theft, of course), and slowly but surely revealing her mental and physical anxiety.
Dorcas suffers from TOCD (a combination of Tourette’s and OCD), and Lopresti makes the odd physicalization and tics of a woman suffering from mental illness look extremely natural and realistic, allowing her character to appear charming and relatable despite these unique habits. As Dorcas organizes trash into three distinct piles on the stage, she continues talking about her anything-but-normal suburban Canadian life. Lopresti does a superb job of telling outlandish stories about her thought process and her sexuality as if they were the every day, all while picking up trash—making for excellent dramedy.
Dorcas tells of her ups and downs through life on her way to becoming not only a cleaning lady, but a sanitation worker (a title she holds with pride), and of her one major addiction, and her downfall: jellybeans. This in itself is a hilarious premise, and as Lopresti’s tearful and truthful depiction of addiction reels the audience in, in the next breath it inspires a laugh. That said, watching Dorcas “lose control” over herself due to her addiction is deeply disconcerting and uncomfortably real, speaking to Lopresti’s power as an actress.
Lopresti’s energy is hypnotic, and every ridiculous story Dorcas tells or action she performs has an immense amount of truth behind it. Through breathing life into Dorcas, Lopresti gives those who struggle in thankless jobs and with mental illness a needed presence in the theater. Jellybean Junkyard hits home and hits heavy, but added jokes and Dorcas’ quirks and unusually innocent candor keep it light enough for audiences to stay in tune.
Additionally, the use of jarring sounds, smells, and erratic lighting enhances the most dramatic moments of the production, creating an all-around sensory experience. This, as well as watching Dorcas constantly cleaning and organizing, creates an immersive environment that strays from the typical theater experience. This is not a production for a light night in the theatre; it is an extremely thought-provoking journey through the mind of an ill young woman sure to inspire laughter, concern, and reflection.
(Jellybean Junkyard played at Under St. Marks, 94 St. Marks Place, through September 24, 2016. Performances were September 22 through 24 at 7:30. Tickets were $15 online, $20 at the door. For more information visit playlighttheatre.com.)
Jellybean Junkyard is by Sean Pollock. Directed by Colleen E. Hughes. Set Design is by Carl Tallent. Lighting Design is by Dylan Amick. Sound Design is by Drew Weinstein. Stage Manager is Sarah Lahue.
The cast is Natalia Lopresti.
ON STAGE BLOG
Review: ‘Jellybean Junkyard’ at Playlight Theatre Company at Under St. Marks Theatre
Anthony J. Piccione
Onstage New York Columnist
When you think about topics such as addiction, mental health, sexuality, and being able to endure despite your struggles in life, these are indeed quite common themes that are addressed in theatre, nowadays, and rightly so, given how many people these issues resonate with. These are the very themes that are explored in Sean Pollack’s new one-person play Jellybean Junkyard, produced by Playlight Theatre Company and directed by Colleen E. Hughes. When I saw the play on Thursday night,I was particularly impressed by the way this play was quite creative, in the way they incorporated these issues. The ways in which they are explored prove to be just as quirky and unique as the character that the play revolves around, as the audience on opening night discovered.
The play tells the story of “Dorcas Pinkleberry”,a young cleaning woman who is given very little time to complete the seemingly impossible task of cleaning out anentire chemically infected junkyard, all on her own. Over the course of the show, Dorcas opens up about her past life in Canada, her struggles with TOCD (a combination of Tourette’s syndrome and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), and her journey that led her to the job she has today. Without giving away too much more, the play does an excellent job at pulling the audience in with the character’s vivid storytelling, while also including plenty of twists and turns – some somber and others hysterical – that keep the show engaging from beginning to end.
In addition to the play itself, it is the impressive performance by Natalia Lopresti that makes this production as strong as it was. In her performance as Dorcas Pinkleberry, Ms. Lopresti strikes a perfect balance of being amiable and friendly toward her audience, while also depicting all the traits that one might expect from someone with her condition, from constant hiccups and repeating words to a general sense of social awkwardness. In doing so, she seems to capture the essence of how it may feel to be someone living with a mental illness, such as the condition she is dealing with.
It goes without saying that a play that takes place in a junkyard calls for LOTS of garbage, and the set design by Carl Tallent does an excellent job at providing the necessary scenery to make the audience feel as if they are being taken to the very place where Dorcas works. Furthermore, the lighting design by Dylan James Amick helps add to this atmosphere, and does an especially excellent job at setting the tone, near the end of the show. Meanwhile, sound designer Drew Weinstein makes excellent use of sound effects to invoke the feelings that Dorcas has, as she remembers various moments of her past, over the course of the play.
Overall, this show proves to be just as poignant and thought-provoking as it is hysterical and entertaining. The unconventional manner in which issues of mental illness and addiction are addressed is what makes this such show stand out, to me, as one might not always get to see other plays that deal with such issues in such an offbeat and creative fashion. If you have the chance, I absolutely recommend seeing this very intriguing show this weekend, while it’s still running.
Jellybean Junkyard – produced by Playlight Theatre Company – runs at Under St. Marks Theatre from September 22-24. For more information, please visit www.playlighttheatre.com.
This review was written by Anthony J. Piccione: Playwright, producer, screenwriter, actor, poet and essayist based in New York City.