Which Way to the Stage

This woman can’t utter the “F” word around her gay best friend and here’s what she has to say about it.

By Andrew Andrews

Sas Goldberg and Michelle Veintimilla in MCC Theater’s production of Ana Nogueira’s Which Way to the Stage in Hell’s Kitchen. Original photos by Daniel J Vasquez.

Aspiring actors Judy and Jeff wait by the backstage door of If/Then, hopeful to score autographs from diva Idina Menzel. Long-time best friends, they kill time bantering about auditions, stars of past musicals, Jeff’s weekly drag performances and his offensive ex-boyfriend.

The next day, average-looking Judy meets a handsome man named Mark at an audition, and is subsequently surprised when Mark makes repeated attempts to forge a romantic relationship with her and a friendship with her BFF.

Before long, the third wheel causes a rift between the duo—especially after Jeff gives Judy reason to believe that Mark isn’t as straight as he seems.

Max Jenkins and Evan Todd complete the cast, directed by Mike Donahue.

Imagine you’re at a sporting event, and the home team begins the game like they don’t even know how to play it.

Then, after losing a lot of points in the first few minutes, they swap a player. The new lineup starts dazzling fans with one tour de force after another, and even the first player returns with some impressive new moves.

By the end of the game, your team is so far ahead, they can afford to run out the clock without any risk of ruining the outcome.

My friends, this production is a lot like that.

The shallow yet intense banter in the opening scene is so esoteric and fast-paced that it’s difficult to follow; but fortunately, in scene two, a change of setting and the introduction of two new characters assuage the flow and add much-needed depth to the story.

A period of “getting to know you” is gradually replaced by one meaningful confrontation upon another, and as in The Niceties (which I reviewed last season), the arguments on every side are so compelling that it’s impossible to favor any of the three cotagonists.

There’s an intentionally bad performance midstream that drags on (pun intended) longer than necessary, and the final scene is a little lackluster and too “happy ending” (but not sappy ending!) for my tastes.

Overall, however, Which Way to the Stage is a powerful thrill ride that challenges those who only see black and white to recognize the spectrum in between.

Which only goes to show that, even if you start out behind, that doesn’t mean you can’t come back strong and win the game by a landslide.

4

Andrew Andrews attended Which Way to the Stage at MCC Theater in Manhattan on Wednesday, May 11, 2022 @ 7:00pm to write this review.