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Off Broadway Reviews


Theatre Review by Howard Miller - October 11, 2022

Sasha Diamond, Benny Wayne Sully, and Shannon Tyo
Photo by James Leynse
Cleverly manipulated stereotypes and an oblique nod to Shakespeare are mined for dark comedy in the Primary Stages production of Jiehae Park's peerless, opening tonight at 59E59 Theatres. Up to a point, it mostly works. Unfortunately, that point comes around the two-thirds mark of the 80-minute play, when a potential punch line of an ending is bypassed in favor of continuing the story with an unpolished and bumpy ride to the finish line.

Inspired, kinda sorta, by Macbeth, the play concerns a pair of highly ambitious twin Asian American high school girls, identified as M (Sasha Diamond) and L (Shannon Tyo). They are bound and determined to be admitted as early decision candidates to the college of their presumed destiny–though not at the same time, because apparently there is only one slot open each year. So the plan is that M will go first, and then L will join her the following year. Only problem: competition. And dealing with it, for a while at least, allows for the kind of satire the play is aiming for.

Borrowing tropes from Shakespeare as a basis for a play set in a contemporary high school is certainly doable. See, for example, Mike Lew's Teenage Dick, in which, as it happens, Sasha Diamond previously appeared. But it isn't easy to mesh Macbeth with a Heathers or Mean Girl vibe. Indeed, it is only in retrospect that I am able to see what the playwright is going for.

There are five other characters, some of whom could be eliminated without impacting the plot. These are played by three actors: Marié Botha, looking rather like a Hogwarts student from the cast of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child; Anthony Cason as a disposable boyfriend; and Benny Wayne Sully, whose excellent comic timing and genuine charm brighten the goings-on as M and L relentlessly pursue their goal. Director Margot Bordelon mostly manages to pace things well, but peerless either needs to be cut back or expanded to avoid what seems to be a hastily managed ending to a relatively strong beginning.

Through November 6, 2022
Primary Stages
59E59 Theaters, Theater A
59 East 59th Street, New York NY
Tickets online and current performance schedule: