Anthony J. Piccione
New York Critic
Since 2003, The Tank has earned a reputation as one of the leading venues in New York for presenting some of the most unique work, presented by artists who aren’t afraid to think outside the box. When I say this, this often includes works that take social and cultural issues that are prevalent in society, and thus covered frequently in the arts, but explores them in a way that is experimental and different from most mainstream contemporary works. That is especially true of Ruffles, the latest world premiere to find a home at this venue this month.
Written and directed by Normandy Sherwood, the play – which tells the story of a young stable boy who confronts his own morality because of the actions his new job requires of him – is described as “a meditation on power, consent and how to be a person, that is, a good person.” Indeed, these are deep and ambitious themes to be tackled for any play, but are bound to be thought-provoking for theatergoers. It’s not always easy to follow, and not all of the humor in the show lands easily. Nonetheless, the play’s concept and approach to tackling its subject matter is certainly unique, and it helps that the actors in this production are very lively and good with physical comedy.
The cast of this production helps bring to life and enhance the melodrama of this play, consisting of Nicholas-Tyler Corbin, Braulio Cruz, Hannah Kallenbach, Ean Sheehy, Bear Spiegel, Ry Szelong, and Tony Torn. While I wouldn’t necessarily say there is one stand out performance, all of the actors prove to be highly energetic and enthusiastic, which certainly helps keep the audience’s attention throughout the production.
In terms of the production’s technical aspects, the colorful set design is easily among the best I’ve reviewed in 2018. I find that most indie theatre productions aren’t known for their extravagant set designs, opting for minimalism either for artistic or budgetary reasons. Yet Ms. Sherwood – along with producing partner Craig Flanagin – are able to make the most out of the main stage space at The Tank, and catch this reviewer’s attention right away.
While not perfect, I applaud Ruffles for its creativity and its unique approach to tackling themes that are familiar and common among new plays in 2018, both of which are things that all playwrights should be aspiring and pushed toward. With just a few more performances left at The Tank this month, be sure to consider checking this show out while you can, and deciding for yourself how successful this play was in achieving its goals.
“Ruffles” runs at The Tank from October 11th-21st. For more information, please visit www.thetanknyc.org.