"Two actors appear on stage and post an enormous sign with the playwright's contact information. A narrator enters and identifies himself as the playwright and describes what the audience is seeing. The narrator praises himself for his own dialogue and the fame he will inevitably achieve for writing the work.
The writer/narrator commands actors to enter and exit the stage to play short scenes. So goes the unorthodox convention of The Famous Play written and directed by Anthony Natoli. There is plenty of food for thought in his blunt social commentary, and the acerbic tone of the writing indicates there is more to it than initially meets the eye.
Natoli's deceptive work of shameless self-promotion begs the question can one achieve fame simply by writing a play then they are famous. Filled with ironic presentational dialogue from generically titled characters, Natoli’s script is acutely self-aware and irreverent. The one hour play alternates from narrations by the writer (known as “Playwright”) and viciously funny vignettes played by a versatile acting ensemble.
What starts as a blatant shameless quest for fame ends as an honest expression of the writer's psyche. It’s a highly progressive piece of theatre perfectly suited for FringeNYC. The satirical fun and (mind) games turn poignant in what is the centerpiece of the show, a painfully revelatory monologue by Playwright. It’s a frank expression about the writer's aspirations and provides insight into the internal battles people with highly creative minds face. Natoli also calls into question the very thing the play seems initially intended to do.
The autobiographical play is all at once self-deprecating and arrogant. And Natoli tells you everything. He bares his soul about his desire for fame, his quandary with psychotropic medications and his relationship with his family and the gay community. He takes you into his brain and makes you become active in his thought process.
As a director, Natoli is an obvious choice for directing his material. He heads a strong creative team. The cast excels with each actor slickly playing multiple roles. Joseph Cappabianca, Evelyn Spahr, John Lowther, Alex Kryger and Mitchel Civello have pinpoint comedic timing fluently delivering the often dense language of Natoli’s script. The actors play everything from cartoonish caricatures of the writer's parents to jaded members of the audience. Each is perfectly suited to play in his hyper-real sandbox.
Brian Cross is exceptional as Playwright. He has completely withdrawn his own ego and supplanted it with a compelling alternative identity of the writer.
There are a number of references in the script to whether the audience will be able to identify with the writer. By the play's end, Natoli has made it extremely difficult for us not to do just that. He is extremely aware of his talent and the dark side that goes along with it.
The audience thoroughly enjoyed the performance I attended. The Famous Play might indeed assist Natoli’s strive for fame (if that’s what he truly wants). Luckily for FringeNYC-goers there are more opportunities to see this work. Be in on the joke and attend this show." - Jason S. Grossman
Anthony Natoli's The Famous Play is an unnervingly honest and funny exploration of artistic creation that establishes a direct line of dialogue with the audience, opening a window into the enormity and fragility of the artist's ego. Five actors, wearing plain white tee shirts emblazoned with the playwright's contact information, are used essentially as prop pieces in the playwright's narrative, narrated by another actor playing the playwright himself. As the playwright, Brian Cross nails the unblinking, stilted plasticity required of the role, only later to drop all pretenses and stun with a unexpectedly moving monologue. The rest of the cast delivers equally well in their multifaceted roles, switching, as required, between being audience members, teachers, parents, and "smart quirky white people." For audiences in on the joke, The Famous Play may prove to be one of the Fringe Festival's hidden gems. At Kraine. 55 minutes. [Teicher]