Afterglow the Play Review: Come for the Curtains, Stay for the Feels

PLAY: Afterglow

WHERE: The Loft at Davenport Theatre

When I decided to make the trip to Manhattan with friends this January, all the Broadway and Off-Broadway buzz made me realize we had to watch two shows. The first being the Spongebob Musical. The second being Afterglow: a one-act, off-broadway play that has extended its run three times. Afterglow even had a mention on SNL, which is pretty awesome!

The story revolves around a married couple in an open relationship, a third person entering the relationship, and how they deal with all the complicated emotions and drama involved, especially with unfaithful utterances of “I love you” and a baby on the way for married couple.

The 90-minute play is honestly one of my favorite shows, and I think part of that is because it is relevant and relatable to anyone of any gender or sexual orientation who has ever been in or plans to be in a relationship or is trying to figure out what they want to do with their life. One character is a 25-year old masseur struggling to afford living in Manhattan. The other is a 30-year old well-off Theatre Director. The third is a graduate chemistry student who is exhausted at the end of each school day. The script expertly uses the three characters’ backgrounds to create relatable scenes from everyday life sprinkled with casual, subtle, direct, and flirtatious humor.

A lot of reviews of the show I don’t think do the show justice, which could be because, although still relatable, it’s laughable for an older audience member that the character Josh is having a mid-life crisis at the ripe old age of 30 (also other reviews focus too much on the nudity, which enhances but is not the focus of the play, instead of the emotions). While I cannot speak for older audience members, I think the show is especially relevant and relatable for younger, more millennial audience members. One idea brought forward is the prominence of dating apps and “with all the options out there, we’re kind of paralyzed by the illusion of choice.” There’s a struggle for many millennials between giving up choices, or at least the illusion of it, for the security in a relationship that so many millennials want. Beyond dating apps, other themes are explored such as what does it mean to be in love, to be in a relationship, to have friendships, what does it mean to be loyal, and more. Or it could be relatable because there’s a joke about naming a plant and lots of millennials name plants.

THE CHARACTERS and CAST: Brandon Haagenson played Josh and was superb. Josh reminded me of the cool uncle – fun most of the time, but also a “real adult” at times too. Haagenson did an exemplary job of displaying a wide-range of emotion throughout the show, which was really great to see.

Joe Chisholm played Alex. Alex is sort of the more serious uncle, for lack of a better metaphor. Chisholm did it beautifully. I think it can be really difficult not to overdo frustration on stage, but Chisholm executed showing Alex’s frustration with ease and I could really feel his exhaustion from his long days in school (but perhaps I’m also drawing from personal experience…)

Patrick Reilly played Darius. Darius was young, free, flirty, and cheeky. Reilly did a great job showing off the youth of Darius in the way Darius would approach Alex and Josh with his concerns. The scene to note that I thought was especially great in showing Darius’ young and free (but also goodhearted) attitude was the laundry-folding scene. Within minutes Reilly displayed a rollercoaster of emotions that I thought was especially impressive

I thought the actors were magnificent in their roles and really did a good job on making it all feel real. What was also cool is that the three actors did all of the set changes themselves, while interacting with each other and remaining in character. That was a great touch to help keep it all feeling real.

THE SET and COSTUMES:  The Davenport Theatre is a repurposed firehouse, which already is especially cool. As you go up three flights of stairs you enter a room with a small stage and seats surrounding it. This was especially cool because the audience literally surrounded the three actors and the stage.

The curtain at the beginning was really pretty and I’m not going to ruin the surprise here (though pretty much every other review talks about it), but I did not expect what was in it when I was walking past it to get to my seat.

The set piece to note was the built-in waterfall shower in the middle of the stage, which was really cool and something I have never seen before on a stage. The use of lights to create roof scenes and stargazing scenes and cool apartment vibes was also really great.

Every piece of clothing the actors wore were seemingly deliberate, making 25-year old Darius look even younger and the 30-year old married couple even older (which is good, because some critics have poked fun at the five-year age gap). The clothing choices did a good job in differentiating Josh’s and Alex’s personalities too.

OVERALL: As the director, S. Asher Gelman, had wanted, “What you bring into the show from your own life is what you’re going to take away from it.” I think this holds especially true. Overall, I think the show is great because it gets you thinking and makes you feel things and draws things from your own experiences. One of my favorite shows I have seen by far. Plus, it isn’t too long, and tickets can be found for a great price (over 60% off) on sites such as TodayTix. And you’re right in Hell’s Kitchen for a delicious dinner right before or cocktails right after, which works out perfectly.

I definitely recommend if you are in New York to read up more about the show and watch it!  The ending is appropriately left open-ended and you’ll walk out of the theatre thinking for hours about what you just saw.


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