FILL FILL FILL FILL FILL FILL FILL

Ben Schrager, Sarah Chalfie, Monique St. Cyr, Jonathan Ryan, Valeria A. Avina and Joseph Huffman bring power to The Perfect Woman, a new game show imagined within Fill Fill Fill Fill Fill Fill Fill. Original photo by Hunter Canning.

By Andrew Andrews

Dating is hard. Especially so when you’re trying to get over a relationship. Even more so when the relationship lasted five years. Still more so when you’d put all of your energy into it. And it ended suddenly. And everyone saw it happen. And it left you feeling not just empty inside, but even full of holes. Physically, as well as mentally.

How do you pick up the pieces and move on? How do you fill the holes and become whole again? FILL, FILL, FILL, FILL, FILL, FILL, FILL is Steph Del Rosso’s new play at the Flea’s Siggy Theatre, featuring their in-house company, The Bats. And with a title like Fill seven times, you might guess that it attacks the experience of rebounding as it’s never been attacked before. We’re talking about sequences that at one moment feel like a dream in progress—surreal, slowed down, sensibly nonsensical—and a few minutes later like a montage of experiences melding together, seamlessly segued, flashing before you at the speed of stage lights. We’re talking about all of the uncertainty, all of the mishaps, all of the self-reflection and shame and desolation that’s familiar territory to anyone who’s ever been dumped—splayed out on the stage for you to not merely empathize, but feel nearly first-hand. We’re talking about situations so extreme, but so carefully crafted, you won’t know whether to see them as metaphors or an actual series of events. In other words: we’re talking theater live and on stage, with the simplest props, that pushes boundaries in ways that most producers would have to rely on heavy video editing and tons of special effects to achieve.

Sarah Chalfie (Joni) stars in Fill, and we knew from the moment she appeared on stage that this was going to be a good show. How, you ask? We’ve enjoyed her work before in Rule of 7x7, which, as we’ve said many times, is one of our favorite events in Manhattan. And whenever she appears in one of those short plays, you can bet you’re in for a treat. But Fill, dear readers, is no comedy short. Yes, it’s full of laughs: the kind of quirky, smart dialogue you’ll hear in 7x7. But it also pulls you down with the kind of distress that most of us have been through at one point or another, wondering whether we’ll make it through, all the while suspecting that we’ll probably not only survive, but learn something about ourselves along the way. Which makes this piece not only funny, but disturbingly, powerfully funny. And sad. Depressing... and uplifting. Isn’t that what good theater is supposed to be?

But this show is more than a single skilled actor delivering lines from a well-tuned playwright. Marina McClure directs all of the talented Bats (Ben Schrager, Valeria A. Avina, Joseph Huffman, Monique St. Cyr, Jonathon Ryan and Maggie McCafferty) with a Gilmore Girls pace that forces you to follow along while making it easy and fun to keep up. You-Shin Chen’s stage is deceptively simple but flexible enough to adapt to the constantly-changing scenes without a break. You’ll start out believing you’re in the audience at the end of a Major Concert Event,™ thanks to the presence of uniformed security guards. You’ll despise the ex-boyfriend Noah (Roland Lane) for taking their public separation to the extreme. And if you’ve ever been on the wrong end of a breakup, you’ll feel empathy for Joni because you’ve been there. So check out the show before it closes on February 25th, then come back here and share your experience with us. Whether you enjoy the novelty of this presentation as much as we did, or you just can’t handle the reality of the situation, your reviews help others decide whether to attend, and your ratings help us help you find future shows you’re sure to love!

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Andrew Andrews attended FILL FILL FILL FILL FILL FILL FILL at Flea Theatre in New York on Thursday, February 8, 2018 @ 6:00pm to write this review.

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