The New York Theatre Guide said of Angry Young Man, now playing with the same cast at Guild Hall’s John Drew Theater in East Hampton, “Skip this review and go buy a ticket to the funniest show in New York.” We’ll wait while you do so.
Now that your tickets are ready, let’s begin with some, perhaps irrelevant, background information. The term “angry young men” is a bit of a loaded one. It was used in the 1950s to describe a group of prominent British playwrights and novelists characterized by disillusionment with British society. Kingsley Amis, Harold Pinter and John Osborne were counted among the “angry young men,” though many rejected the label. The political views of this group often identified with the left and expressed social alienation of different kinds.
The cast of Angry Young Man, the play written by Ben Woolf and directed by Sag Harbor’s Stephen Hamilton, tore down the fourth wall right from the beginning, with one of the characters—they are only named Character A, Character B, Character C and Character D, none of whom are ever referred to as such—engaging the audience in small talk, while the rest encourage the audience to all come closer together in the seats. To really experience this show, you want to position yourself in the first row, close to the steps coming down from the stage.
Youssef is a Middle Eastern surgeon recently arrived in London, where he has a job interview at a local hospital the next day. Youssef, however, underestimating the distance between the airport he arrived at and his final destination, is forced to give up all but his last few dollars to cover his taxi bill. He finds a nice park bench and resigns himself to feeding the ducks and minding his own business until it’s time for his interview. Thus begins an absurd, madcap 75-minute performance in which the four actors keep up an unholy pace and give the audience a night they won’t soon forget.
While on the bench, Youssef—whose role is shared by all four actors—has a miscommunication with an old woman sitting next to him—one of several characters, many bumbling, played by Christopher Daftsios, who also performs most of the sound effects, including those of a spot–on sputtering milk truck, ducks and a urinating cherub statue. Their heated interaction leads to the police coming, but Youssef is saved by Patrick, played by Nazli Sarpkaya, a young liberal—with a Che Guevara hat to match—who was either naïve in his willingness to believe anyone, including a Nigerian prince who simply needs credit card information, or a scheming fraud. Patrick brings Youssef to the house of his girlfriend Allison, played by Max Samuels, where they meet her father, an investor in one of Patrick’s schemes, played by Rami Margron.
From there the four actors take us on an exceptional series of mistakes and hapless missteps, running afoul of white nationalists and liberal hypocrites alike. It’s nonstop, wall-to-wall (so to speak) hilarious action in which the actors all play multiple characters, all switching seamlessly back and forth between each one. It’s hard enough for most of us to remember a co-workers coffee order, but this cast does it all without skipping a beat. At times, it almost seems as if the actors are tagging each other in and out at random, that some lines are ad-libbed, inside jokes to the cast. Neither may be the case, but one thing is clear: The cast is having fun, and as a result, the audience had fun.
Angry Young Man is smart, timely, expertly well-constructed and out-of-the ordinary. In short, a unique, not to-be-missed theater experience. What else could you want in a piece of art?
Angry Young Man is playing through June 18 at Guild Hall, 158 Main Street, East Hampton. For tickets and other information call 631-324-0806 or visit guildhall.org.