"Coney Island Last Stop," a new
play by Michael Schwartz, is being staged as part of The Moral
Values Festival at The Brick Theater in Williamsburg, now through
So this weekend is your last chance to miss it.
At least five people were closely involved with the production of this play. Some of them are recent graduates of such prestigious schools as the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU and the Stella Adler Studio. That they would consent to devote their talents to a piece of drivel that seems to have been taken out of a trunk - where it was stored with other teenage attempts at self-expression - does not speak well for either the state of theater education or the ability of good actors to find good parts.
Schwartz, whose one-man-show, "In the Shadow of the Third Rail," was reviewed favorably in this paper in June 2002, is certainly capable of better.
The play, which is also directed by Schwartz and features the same in roles of varying importance, is a coming-of-age comedy-drama set in Coney Island in 1979. (Speaking of sets, there isn’t one for this show.) It’s about three boys in their early teens and their (mostly abortive) attempts to have sex.
The times and tempo of the play are introduced by a Coney Island barker (Schwartz), complete with cane, garish, multicolored suit and imitation straw hat, who gives the audience a brief history of Coney Island. Then the story begins.
Tony Paisanarro (Jacob I. Alexander), a 14-year-old high school (or perhaps junior high school) dropout, is the most experienced. (Being Italian seems to have something to do with this.) Jacob Katz (Robbie Collier Sublett), at the age of 13, is still a frustrated virgin. (Being Jewish seems to have something to do with this; those who might be confused, please read Philip Roth’s "Portnoy’s Complaint.") Willy LetMe SeeNo (Schwartz) stutters so badly it’s hard to figure out what he wants until he begins speaking in rhymed couplets that presage the streetwise ditties of rap (and are derivative of Frank Perry’s film "David and Lisa").
When Tony finds a 14-year-old Russian girl named Alminouchka (Ana Reiselman), who for some reason agrees to a group sex with these oafish youngsters, relief seems to have arrived. Only the boys, despite their most energetic efforts, find it difficult to prepare themselves for the tryst. Apparently the girl has neither the experience nor the desire to help them along.
When it is finally Jacob’s turn, something happens, but exactly what is not revealed until Act II. Act I ends with Alminouchka singing a tuneless song and stuffing her face with a candy bar.
In Act II, ugly truths are revealed. While riding the Cyclone roller coaster, Jacob tells Tony that he has some sort of bowel problem which causes him to defecate on himself all the time. He has also been cursed with a congenitally deformed penis that resembles a rotten sausage.
And perhaps worst of all, he hasn’t really had sex with Alminouchka, but only for the sake of propriety do we leave out the details.
At one point Jacob’s father (Jeffrey Parillo) appears and tries to get his son (who has by now dropped out of school, too) back on track. But it is not until Jacob makes the acquaintance of a rabbi genie who pops out of a seltzer bottle that Jacob sees the light.
The play (mercifully) ends with Jacob’s family and friends performing some sort of ritual circle dance around him, after which Jacob and Tony take a leap into the sea to wash off their sins.
So that’s it folks. If you still want to see "Coney Island Last Stop," it’s your own fault. Don’t complain if you’re bored, angry and uncomfortable. The theater is not air-conditioned and fans - offered for the duration of the show - provide the only comfort. This reviewer takes no responsibility. Consider yourself warned.
"Coney Island Last Stop" plays
July 3 at 1 pm at The Brick Theater (575 Metropolitan Ave. between
Union Avenue and Lorimer Street in Williamsburg). Tickets are
$10. For tickets, call Smarttix at (212) 868-44444 or visit smarttix.com.
For more information about the Moral Values theater festival,