Nestled in one of the forested layers of Fairfax suburbia, down a winding road is a theatre group that has taken on projects that belie its size, but not its stature. The Hub Theatre, continuing its tradition of offering a lab type setting for emerging shows, is presenting How I Paid For College. This world premiere is a one-person show based on the popular novel of the longer name, the 2005 How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship, and Musical Theater by Mark Acito. The book traces the coming of age of young Edward Zanni, a name you could only find in the Northeast, specifically Wallingford, NJ.
… a resounding yes, with kudos to the fine production team who conspired to put this terrific show together.
Mr. Acito, who is also the playwright for this production, has taken the key elements of the novel to encapsulate the essential storyline here. The tale is of our young 17 year old Edward, as he faces his first great challenge in life—how to pay for Julliard (yes, that Julliard) when his businessman father remarries and pulls the plug on Edward’s dreams. Although he has an awful lot of musical fun at the alternative bar in New York City, his sexual exploration is left in the book and only hinted at onstage. The aspiring thespian now plots how to find that extra 50k to pay for tuition, and wanders into a hilarious series of incidents—ordinary, really, but brought to a luminosity by the work of Brightman onstage.
One man shows present a unique paradigm, for actor and audience. Does he have the chops to handle it all? Can he interpret multiple characters? Is this going to be a full theatrical experience? Do I want to look at the same person for so long?
In this case, the answer is a resounding yes, with kudos to the fine production team who conspired to put this terrific show together. Mr. Acito has penned a fast-paced, full of detail, yet flowing stage adaptation, Director Helen Pafumi shows excellent pacing and uses the Hub’s stage dimensions well, keeping Edward front and center but with time to relax our concentration, depending on the mood and location change. In this type play, the director must let the comfort level of the actor be paramount, and let him find emotional levels and pace. Credit the team for a successful collaboration.
Brightman, in this role is essentially a storyteller. In a wink wink, nod nod to the audience, he toys with the 4th wall, but it works with this material. He completely engages in multiple roles, explaining his disfunctional family, his friends/cohorts in ‘crime’ –Paula his co-auditioner and Nate his nerdy brains behind the scheming. He gives just enough to convey his characters without full impersonations. As Edward, Brightman presents a relentless energetic pacing in multiple scenarios. His hung-over rant at his messed up audition which actually wins the Julliard scholarship was priceless, though we’ve seen it in a Hollywood script somewhere. It actually looks like he is improvising onstage, he is that into the moment.
The roller coaster ride begins in song and ends there. As billed, it is a monologusical, a new genre ‘created’ by the playwright. Though it doesn’t roll off the tongue—kinda gets caught halfway–but in the tongue-in-cheek spirit of the show, it works. The show is essentially well presented teen angst, so the message is the medium.
The set added to the focus of the misadventures of our thespian bumbler. Kristen Morgan’s set lines houses left and right onstage, as if Edward is trapped in suburbia, a show song away from breaking out. Lighting designer Jimmy Lawlor is created an effective backdrop with special effects, though there was a long stretch in the middle where Brightman could have used perspective.
The Hub Theatre has added another fine world premiere to the theatrical ranks. And I have less trepidation about solo shows going forward.
Running Time: 75 minutes.
How I Paid for College is presented at The Hub Theatre, 9431 Silver King Court Fairfax, VA 22031 on Dec. 7-30. For tickets or for other performances in the 2012-2013season, call 1.800.494.8497 or click here.