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I wanted to love Spacebar: A Broadway Play by Kyle Sugerman. The play is about a teenager who pens a play he believes belongs on Broadway. He won’t rest until it’s staged. He wants to see his name in lights. He’s driven and likable and is one of the kids that you know just wants to get out of his small town and into a city as soon as possible. The kind of kid that many theatergoers see in themselves. Having a charismatic and somewhat sympathetic lead was not enough to make me enjoy this work.
Playwright Michael Mitnick is clearly a big fan of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. He creates a world within his play that is very familiar to any fan of the work of Douglas Adams. It’s a world that’s comfortable with flippant humor, unrealistic and fun and perilous situations, and overly dramatic monologues. While this is at heart a coming-of-age story, it also feels like an giant fuck you to unsupportive dads and mainstream Broadway. In one scene, our lead (Jared Murray) complains to his non-responsive father about being, um, non-responsive. In other words, he sounds like a teenager, which is what he’s playing, but teenagers aren’t always the best choice for narrators.
The ideas behind this play are good. A boy loses his sister at three-years-old, and 12 years later, his father, as well. He finds solace in the dramatic arts. He wants to show his dad that he’s worth something, or at least to get his name in lights. We learn these things within the first 10 minutes. We’re reminded of these things for the next two hours.
The entire cast is solid, but kudos especially to Michael Saltzman, who brings lovely dose of comedic relief. Mitnick knows how to write funny stuff, and I wouldn’t mind seeing a play in which the playwright reprises his role here as a NYC cabbie. Spacebar, though, has the makings of a good play but gets tripped up by its length; with its dragged out second act, it could easily be 40 minutes shorter.
In spacebar’s second scene, Mitnick’s young scribe introduces us to his world. It’s quick and cute and good. He reads from his play. He talks about the economy of words. It makes sense. It would be nice if Mitnick the real-life playwright heeded the advice of the playwright he’s created.
“Spacebar” runs June 18 at 8 p.m., June 22 at 8 p.m., June 26 at 8 p.m., and July 3 at 1 p.m. at Source Theatre, 1835 14th St. NW. $20.