Saturday , February 24 2024
Jennifer Morris as Kate and Crystal Finn as Sherri in 'Washed Up on the Potomac' (Jonas Gustavsson)
Jennifer Morris as Kate and Crystal Finn as Sherri in 'Washed Up on the Potomac' (Jonas Gustavsson)

Theater Review (NYC): ‘Washed Up on the Potomac’ by Lynn Rosen

Lynn Rosen’s crackling comedy Washed Up on the Potomac, one of a trio of new plays from “pop-up” theater company The Pool, is a blast of wit, broad humor, and sharp observations of how artists’ struggles mirror human nature. Etched into vivid relief by a superb cast, its characters are caricatures who ring true.

Kate (a supercharged Jennifer Morris) still aspires to rock stardom as she approaches her 39th birthday still playing for “tens of tens of people” in dive bars. (“Dude, I’m post-show and I’m starving.”) Mark (a hilarious and affecting Adam Green), an aspiring graphic novelist turning 29 and besotted with Kate’s electric, over-ripe charisma, resembles a struggling-artist antihero from a Woody Allen movie. Across the office, frumpy Sherri (a dazzling Crystal Finn) – “Big bag, big coat, always hovering” – seems to want only to get by without being bothered or even noticed. Still unhealthily attached to her mother, she literally hides at the first hint of conflict or agita.

Debargo Sanyal, whose work I’ve admired in the past (most recently in Flux’s Rizing), is a memorable Giorgio, their hysterically volcanic boss at the Washington D.C. advertising agency where they work as proofreaders. Giorgio is the kind of edge-of-the-precipice organization man who tries hopelessly to whip his crew into shape by shouting “Gather, people!” and admonishing head proofreader Sherri to “visibilitate style guides for easy referenceability.”

He and the staff are in a tizzy because two shadows hang over the office. A body that has washed up on the Potomac may be that of a former employee who disappeared a year ago. Even more distressing, someone has allowed an incredibly costly typo onto an advertisement for a major client.

But the story elements are primarily vehicles for the exploration – and in one case the progression – of character. While David Bengali’s colorful projected images backdrop a rich epiphany for one, all three proofreaders reveal their metaphorical guts in scenes that feel painfully real after all the rocking humor: Kate’s songs, Mark’s subsequent confession of his romantic feelings, and Sherri’s poetic imagining of what really happened to the missing proofreader. We have met these people, or people very much like them, in our real lives. The production gives us cartoonish avatars of elemental humanity who are nonetheless folksy, familiar, and very real.

The ending may be a bit overblown, but director José Zayas guides the cast through Rosen’s three-scene arc with a sure hand, eliciting delightfully funny and touching performances and bringing to life a hilarious and ultimately graceful story of people who amid the apparent hopelessness of their efforts to live meaningful lives find a faint glow of positivity.

Washed Up on the Potomac is one of the most entertaining shows I’ve seen all year. It runs in rotating rep with Tania in the Getaway Van and The Rafa Play at The Flea through December 16. For tickets visit The Pool or call 212-352-3101.

About Jon Sobel

Jon Sobel is Publisher and Executive Editor of Blogcritics as well as lead editor of the Culture & Society section. As a writer he contributes most often to Music, where he covers classical music (old and new) and other genres, and Culture, where he reviews NYC theater. Through Oren Hope Marketing and Copywriting at you can hire him to write or edit whatever marketing or journalistic materials your heart desires. Jon also writes the blog Park Odyssey at where he is on a mission to visit every park in New York City. He has also been a part-time working musician, including as lead singer, songwriter, and bass player for Whisperado.

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