by Kaila M. Stokes
In a small theater at the top of the 8th floor in a doorman building in the heart of Times Square, is The Tank. This non-profit home for the arts is where many emerging artists produce shows. Whether We Like It Or Not is written and performed by Ariel Lauryn and Lucy Shelby, college friends turned comedy-duo.
As the house lights, stay on, the show begins with two very apparent quirky girls trying to find their way to the stage. As they enter, almost ripping the curtain down, Stella, played by Ariel Lauryn, was shocked to see the audience. Immediately the audience was a part of this production. As Stella stammered around pointing out people in the audience she knew, real or fake we will never know, Blanch, played by Lucy Shelby, knowingly watches her in excitement. The chemistry between the two actresses is apparent off the bat. They had a little Lucy and Ethel vibe going on.
The plot that is marketed is “A blonde and a brunette walk into a living room, with lots of old, smoldering secrets, sisterly love-hate and a gun.” The actual plot is a play within a play that should be a fifteen-minute SNL skit and not an hour and a half production. With that being said the show starts out very clever. Blanche invited all of Stella’s family, loved and hated, from Indiana to do a reading together. Slowly, and I mean slowly, the plot develops. The real reason behind this event is that Blanche wanted to showcase her talent or lack thereof and upstage Stella…AGAIN. As time goes on the slap-stick comedy increases, the characters become unhinged as secrets new and old are revealed and the stage is torn apart.
What Ariel and Lucy did a great job of was listening to each other and their surroundings. Because of the slapstick nature and the involvement of the audience things are bound to change every performance. A cell phone rang and it was commented on, a theater-goer got up to use the restroom and it was noted and shoes, butts and objects were flying everywhere! There is no doubt that these two of have talent, but the production Whether We Like It Or Not was like watching the same joke over and over again. The joke is funny the first time, stick with that. It would have been more compelling to have seen the funny joke turn into a serious drama.
If there had been a director, a lot of the flaws in the writing could have been brought to light. Blanche might have not been so one note and Stella might not have been so stale. The lights were minimal, yet served the purpose for the space and production. The set also minimal was utilized well by the performers, not an inch or object went to waste. Whenever an object is on stage that is not utilized it is a missed opportunity. One should always support local theater, artists and spaces that promote new forms of expression. For that reason alone maybe you should see Whether We Like It Or Not, or maybe NOT.