36 Juniper

Teatro Circulo, Manhattan

By Andrew Andrews

Tom (Joe Reece) puts Mackenzie (Jessika McQueen) in an awkward position in front of Amy (Shannon McInally), Theo (Brendan Byrne) and Ben (Jacob Dabby), while Bobbi (Alyssa Abraham) turns away. Original photo by AK47 Division.

We see a lot of shows here at Opplaud: some of them are far from perfect, many are approachhing perfect and a select few are nearly perfect.

But the real gems—the truly perfect productions—are as rare as a sixty degree day in December in New York City.

36 Juniper is a rare gem.

We knew that this show was going to be good when we heard it was coming from Wrong House: the crew that brought us Really, Really this time last year, which was really, really good.

And their irregularly-occurring Sketchy Sketch Nights have proven their talents at writing, acting and an all-around good time.

But folks, we had no idea just how perfect this performance was going to be.

Let’s start with the plot: a group of old friends gathers for a house party ten years after a tragic incident at their high school shattered their lives and, ultimately, their friendship. None of them are comfortable with what happened or with being together again, but out of respect—or maybe, hoping for an opportunity to heal—they reluctantly agree to play a party game they’d invented back when they were a lot less mature.

It’s a perfect premise, filled with just the right balance of tension and humor, and the team of Wrong House playwrights (Jessika McQueen, Shannon McInally and Alyssa Abraham) don"t merely do the script justice: they’ve perfected it.

Next, let’s consider the acting, directed by Greg Pragel with a thorough understanding of just how the scenario would play out and how to extract it from his team. The playwrights themselves, along with fellow Wrong House members Brendan Byrne, Joe Reece and Jacob Dabby, deliver their lines perfectly, allowing the audience to forget you’re in a basement theatre and believe you’re more a fly on the wall of this rural American home (“probably in a flyover state,” according to the program), caught up in the unfolding drama and laughing at the awkward humor as though you’re reviewing old videos of yourself at a younger age.

The set, assembled by the company (especially McInally) from personal effects, used furniture and some strategic purchases from Amazon, perfectly resembles any living room you might find anywhere outside of a major metropolitan city, where square footage is plentiful but decorating savvy is hard to come by. With perfect lighting (Zach Weeks) and sound (Alex Duncker) that always set just the right mood at just the right time, it’s obvious that this crew has left no "I" undotted and no "T" uncrossed in the planning of this show.

So just how perfect is this production?

Normally we might say that with a little bit more workshopping, or a higher budget, or an equity cast, an off-off-Broadway show would be ready for the Great White Way.

This one is ready right now. The only thing it needs is for you and your friends to see it.

Our advice to you is this: see it now. Before it reaches a wider audience. Before the ticket prices soar and it loses its intimate setting.

See it, then come back here and tell us just how perfect you think it is.

Your reviews can help others—including, hopefully, “the powers that be”—decide whether the inaugural production of 36 Juniper is as perfect as we say, and your ratings help us help you find future performances and other events you’re sure to love!

Andrew Andrews attended 36 Juniper at Teatro Circulo in Manhattan on Friday, November 30, 2018 @ 8:00pm to write this review.