by Olivia George
The year is 1944, the ship is The Diligence, and the cast is as motley as a crew gets. It is also littered with NYU alumni, with no less than twelve bios boasting graduation from Tisch.
Everybody remembers how much we wished we could live lives like the characters in the stories we read. The Pipeline Theater Company recaptures that spirit of adventure in “Felix and the Diligence,” a new play written by NYU grad Colby Day.
Felix Brown (played by NYU grad Benj Mirman) has high hopes when he joins a prankster deckhand, an annoyingly pedantic first mate, a runaway bride, and many other bizarre characters on the most unproductive cod-fishing boat in the States. However, Felix soon discovers that real life doesn’t always play out the way it did in his books. He does get to have his share of trouble on the high seas, managing to spot a sea monster, fight Nazi spies, and have a three minute romance with a mermaid. He frequently attempts to burst into song, as a tune swells around his dreamer dialogues, but he is thwarted each time by the ship’s music hating captain. “Felix” also has a fair amount of gender confusion and a couple cases of mistaken identity, in a sly parody of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.”
There’s a lot going on here, so there is a lot of pressure on the cast to put it all together. Unfortunately, some of the performances in this production seemed a bit rough, as if the show were still in rehearsals. The play is narrated by Henley (Nicole Spezio), an old blind man who frequently freezes the action to explain the painfully corny moral of the scene. Spezio’s performance is extremely loud and puzzlingly profane. The comic rhythm was also a bit off. There were to many awkward moments when punch lines missed and the audience remained quiet even as the actors had paused for a laugh. First-mate Hersh (Fernando Contreras), tries to impress with fast-talking, but he spews his ten-dollar words out so quickly that it doesn’t even sound like English. And Katelyn Manfre, as an extremely horny and sunburned Amelia Earhart, does not get into her farcical character enough, and many of her lewd jokes fall flat.
However, the show definitely has its moments, many of them surrounding the naïve, doe-eyed Felix, and the slapstick antics of Captain Chapman, who I saw portrayed by understudy and NYU grad Meagan Kensil.
Felix and the Diligence is playing now through October 8 at the Connelly Theater on East 4th Street Between Avenue A and B. Tickets are $15 for students. Order online with the code STU15. Visit piplinetheater.org.
Olivia George is a contributing writer. Email her at email@example.com