Past Reviews

Off Broadway Reviews

The Wild Parrots of Campbell

Theatre Review by Howard Miller - December 11, 2019

John DiMino, Domenica Feraud, and Evan Hall
Photo by Sean T. McGrath
It can be eye-rollingly annoying to sit through plays about self-indulgent twenty-something slackers who have nothing better to do than drink, smoke, and complain about how their lives suck. But what if their lives actually do suck? And what if they are striving mightily to fumble their way toward adulthood with only their equally messed-up friends to help them? That's the premise of Alex Riad's intriguing and well-acted The Wild Parrots of Campbell at the Cherry Lane Theatre.

A production of the NOW Collective and directed by Padraic Lillis, The Wild Parrots of Campbell takes place at the suburban San Jose, California, home that Charlie (John DiMino) grew up in and recently inherited from his late mother. He lives there with two rent-paying friends, Nikki (Kasey Lee Huizinga) and Kevin (Adrian Burke), and his only-recently reconnected older brother Jack (a compelling Evan Hall). Though the youngest of the group, the 23-year-old Charlie has set himself up as the grownup head of the household. He is the only one holding down a steady job (as a Silicon Valley techie), provides the takeout meals and alcohol the others happily consume, and is lax about collecting money to cover expenses.

Turns out that Charlie is not so much a soft touch as he is desperately lonely and looking for at least a semblance of a family structure to fill a deep void in his life. To this end, he has invited Amanda (Domenica Feraud) to come live with him. The two met as part of an online poker group, and they really don't know much about each other. For Charlie, having a live-in girlfriend is part of his overall effort to create that longed-for family. For 20-year-old Amanda, however, it is more a means of escape from an abusive home life; what she is looking for is a safe haven while she can figure out her next steps.

Mr. Riad, the playwright, has done a particularly fine job of thinking through the transitional years between 20 and 30. Next in age to Charlie is 24-year-old Kevin, your stereotypical pot-smoking slacker/freeloader, friendly but oblivious. Nikki, at 27, the lead performer in a self-described “queer punk band” at a local bar, is the longest-entrenched member of the group. Sarcastic and defensive, she is fearful that Amanda's presence will lead to her and Kevin being sent packing with nowhere to go. And then there is Jack, the 31-year-old keeper of memories of growing up with his and Charlie's destructive wreck of a mother. Charlie has more or less blotted out what Jack recalls vividly, and the play is as much about Jack as it is about Charlie, who is just glad to have his brother back in his life after an absence of more than a decade.

There is a hint of Sam Shepard's True West that manifests in the self-destructive behavior of Jack and in his relationship with Charlie, but Riad is focused more on the individual and collective struggles of his characters, who are caught like flies in flypaper during a challenging time in their lives. They will either break free or become trapped in a permanent state of malaise and purposelessness. The exposition-heavy first act runs long, and I would love to see more development of the characters of Nikki and Kevin, but overall this is an original and thoughtful take on a group of lost and floundering souls whose futures remain uncertain and unpredictable even by the end.

The Wild Parrots of Campbell
Through December 21, 2019
Cherry Lane Theatre, 38 Commerce Street, New York
Tickets online and current performance schedule: