Cute Activist

Theater, Comedy
3 out of 5 stars
Cute Activist
Photograph: Courtesy Maria Baranova-Suzuki

Theater review by Helen Shaw 

There are scenes in New Saloon’s lightning-fast, kitten-fanged comedy that are an unalloyed joy: the zippiest, zingiest salvos I’ve seen come out of what we might call the Millennial Camp movement. The small collective—playwright Milo Cramer, director Morgan Green and actor Madeline Wise—is working in a rich and productive comic vein. Cute Activist is acute social commentary with an Adventure Time filter; its considerable cynicism is set in a kind of Candy Land anti-Brooklyn, populated by talking animals and faux-innocent child-adults. 

As a whole evening, Cramer’s play has a start-and-stop quality. A weird middle section of self-conscious romantic dialogue feels cloying, and the short show’s ending fizzles; the glitter grenade it’s been promising all along seems to roll out of the production’s hand. But while the piece feels unfinished, Cute Activist's several perfect bits have been polished to a mirror sheen. Cramer, who also puppeteers a singing deer, gives us a wickedly hilarious first date between Jen (Wise) and Gil (Ronald Peet); a vampire rentier called Landlorde (David Greenspan) who hisses whenever he hears the word “activist”; and a protest cell that mainly complains about doughnuts and dogs (“so much one-sided affection”). It's seemingly silly but also bitterly self-flagellating:While the activists are trying to figure out where their work should place its spear, one of them muses, “It could be that no statements are helpful.” Ouch! That stings. But such tart jokes do offer a kind of help, even as they snatch our comfort away.

The Bushwick Starr (Off-Off Broadway). By Milo Cramer. Directed by Morgan Green. With ensemble cast. Ruinning time: 1hr 10mins. No intermission. Through January 27.

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By: Helen Shaw

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