- OnStage Chief New York Theatre Critic
“Miss” is about unspeakable acts: horrific, unforgiveable, heinous acts committed by seemingly “normal” and “respectable” individuals. Because of the structure of Michael Ross Albert’s play, it is difficult to speak of these acts without having to issue a plethora of “spoiler alerts.” The most unspeakable are committed by a Laura (played with a suspicious gritty innocence by Rosie Sowa) a private boarding school English teacher and her troubled fiancé Gil (played with a frenetic and dangerous vulnerability by Daniel J. O’Brien). Gil is a CPA and most likely an alcoholic; however, those are not among his unforgiveable acts. Nor is – at face value – Laura’s teaching career problematic to anyone.
Laura’s and Gil’s heinous acts have little to do with what they do for a living; rather their misdeeds have everything to do with who they are as individuals and the health of their moral courage. “Miss” begins with a heated argument between Laura and Gil about their recent lack of communication, about Laura’s miscarriage, about Laura’s car in a ditch, about a fight between two of Laura’s students, and about Gil’s inability to understand Laura’s state of mind.
As this argument progresses, Mr. Albert reveals layer upon layer of secrets and discloses bits of information in carefully crafted exchanges between the fractured pair. Then into this mix comes one of those students Tyler (played with a fractured but fragile persona by Adam Petherbridge) and the lid of Pandora’s box opens even further as more secrets are disclosed and more heinous acts revealed.
Why is Tyler being expelled from the school and why has he left two other boarding schools before landing in this one? Why is Tyler’s father not able to attend Tyler’s disciplinary hearing? Why was Tyler fighting his “best friend” Derrick? Why does Gil despise Tyler? Why does Gil want Laura to speak to an attorney? Why is Laura such an unlikeable character?
Director Kaitlyn Samuel moves the action of “Miss” at a reasonably even pace and supports her cast as they peel away the layers of dissemblance and desperation. It is the peeling of those layers that gives “Miss” its strength. Too often, however, the characters get involved in implausible situations – in the past and in the present – but the dénouement is worth the wait despite some bumps in the dramatic arc. Mr. Albert’s characters are well-defined and their conflicts clear. The resulting plot is interesting and thought-provoking.
“Miss” is a play with a core of moral ambiguity. The audience needs to gather everything the playwright offers and make decisions about Laura, Gil, and Tyler based on their individual belief systems and personal and cultural value systems.
“Miss” is presented by The New York International Fringe Festival and Outside Inside at the 64E4 Mainstage, 64 East 4th Street (between Bowery and 2nd Avenue).
For more information about the show including performance dates, the cast, and creative team, please visit http://michaelrossalbert.com/Michael_Ross_Albert/Miss.html. For more information about the 20th Annual New York Fringe Festival visit www.FringeNYC.org. Running time is 1 hour and 10 minutes without intermission.
Pictured: Adam Petherbridge and Rosie Sowa. Photographer: Kaitlyn Samuel.