"Coney Island Last Stop," a new
play by Michael Schwartz, is being staged as part of The Moral
Values Festival at The Brick Theater in Williamsburg, now through
So this weekend is your last chance to miss it.
At least five people were closely involved with the production
of this play. Some of them are recent graduates of such prestigious
schools as the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU and the Stella
Adler Studio. That they would consent to devote their talents
to a piece of drivel that seems to have been taken out of a trunk
– where it was stored with other teenage attempts at self-expression
– does not speak well for either the state of theater education
or the ability of good actors to find good parts.
Schwartz, whose one-man-show, "In the Shadow of the Third
Rail," was reviewed favorably in this paper in June 2002,
is certainly capable of better.
The play, which is also directed by Schwartz and features the
same in roles of varying importance, is a coming-of-age comedy-drama
set in Coney Island in 1979. (Speaking of sets, there isn’t one
for this show.) It’s about three boys in their early teens and
their (mostly abortive) attempts to have sex.
The times and tempo of the play are introduced by a Coney Island
barker (Schwartz), complete with cane, garish, multicolored suit
and imitation straw hat, who gives the audience a brief history
of Coney Island. Then the story begins.
Tony Paisanarro (Jacob I. Alexander), a 14-year-old high school
(or perhaps junior high school) dropout, is the most experienced.
(Being Italian seems to have something to do with this.) Jacob
Katz (Robbie Collier Sublett), at the age of 13, is still a frustrated
virgin. (Being Jewish seems to have something to do with this;
those who might be confused, please read Philip Roth’s "Portnoy’s
Complaint.") Willy LetMe SeeNo (Schwartz) stutters so badly
it’s hard to figure out what he wants until he begins speaking
in rhymed couplets that presage the streetwise ditties of rap
(and are derivative of Frank Perry’s film "David and Lisa").
When Tony finds a 14-year-old Russian girl named Alminouchka
(Ana Reiselman), who for some reason agrees to a group sex with
these oafish youngsters, relief seems to have arrived. Only the
boys, despite their most energetic efforts, find it difficult
to prepare themselves for the tryst. Apparently the girl has
neither the experience nor the desire to help them along.
When it is finally Jacob’s turn, something happens, but exactly
what is not revealed until Act II. Act I ends with Alminouchka
singing a tuneless song and stuffing her face with a candy bar.
In Act II, ugly truths are revealed. While riding the Cyclone
roller coaster, Jacob tells Tony that he has some sort of bowel
problem which causes him to defecate on himself all the time.
He has also been cursed with a congenitally deformed penis that
resembles a rotten sausage.
And perhaps worst of all, he hasn’t really had sex with Alminouchka,
but only for the sake of propriety do we leave out the details.
At one point Jacob’s father (Jeffrey Parillo) appears and tries
to get his son (who has by now dropped out of school, too) back
on track. But it is not until Jacob makes the acquaintance of
a rabbi genie who pops out of a seltzer bottle that Jacob sees
The play (mercifully) ends with Jacob’s family and friends performing
some sort of ritual circle dance around him, after which Jacob
and Tony take a leap into the sea to wash off their sins.
So that’s it folks. If you still want to see "Coney Island
Last Stop," it’s your own fault. Don’t complain if you’re
bored, angry and uncomfortable. The theater is not air-conditioned
and fans – offered for the duration of the show – provide the
only comfort. This reviewer takes no responsibility. Consider
"Coney Island Last Stop" plays
July 3 at 1 pm at The Brick Theater (575 Metropolitan Ave. between
Union Avenue and Lorimer Street in Williamsburg). Tickets are
$10. For tickets, call Smarttix at (212) 868-44444 or visit smarttix.com.
For more information about the Moral Values theater festival,