"Elevator Repair Service has come up with a head trip that is as organic as it is delirious. It’s called 'Fondly, Collette Richland.' And though what opened is advertised as a play, it is far closer to what happens in the privacy of your own mind when you’re in bed with your unconscious...A witty, fastidiously wrought and thoroughly disorienting visual and aural universe in which the solid and the known keep melting at the edges." Full Review
"It spoils nothing to say this long, loopy piece ends on a mountain with society ladies squaring off against a satanic entity called the Krampus. John Collins’s richly layered, densely designed production (with a goofy-brilliant soundscape by Williams) rises to the whirling, morphing challenge of Kempson’s remarkable script. I haven’t been so bewildered yet so delighted in ages." Full Review
"Ms. Kempson’s text is dense and to claim it is not would be to discredit the sophistication of the script. There are 'big impossible problems to contend with' and all of them are hauntingly delightful...It is ultimately best not to overthink the piece or wonder about issues of provenance of thoughts or images or ideas. The audience member simply needs to allow the piece to flow over mind, body, and spirit and rejoice at the resurgence of wonder, the revelation of the undertow of wonder." Full Review
"The performance under review began as a sell-out. After intermission about thirty percent of the seats had been abandoned, but the decibels of audience laughter were undiminished...Playgoers can't rely for ballast on the familiar structure of a novel such as 'The Great Gatsby,' 'The Sun Also Rises,' or 'The Sound and the Fury.' There's potential for fun here, but the potential depends on a game and willing audience rising above the cognitive bumps in Kempson's dramatic road." Full Review
"If you're going to follow the goings-on, you've got to be super-alert. That's because Sibyl Kempson's 2-hour-45-minute play often dispenses with plausible links between what the various characters say, or what happens. It's a loose-structured approach to drama that, unless you're a devotee of New York's downtown experimental theater scene, takes some getting used to. Seeing 'Collette Richland' would be a good test of whether it's a style that's your cup of tea." Full Review
"During the intermission for the Elevator Repair Service’s 'Fondly, Collette Richland,' at the same time that a noticeable number of theatergoers fervidly exited New York Theatre Workshop for good, an avant-garde director I know came up to me and said 'I’m loving this. But it should be at 3 in the morning.' I agreed with the director…and also with the exiting theatergoers...The key to appreciating 'Fondly, Collette Richland' is not to try to understand it, but to let it wash over you." Full Review
"It doesn't add up to anything profound, or even particularly entertaining. It exists for the sake of existing, a living proof of concept much more than a play with anything relevant to say...While watching it, you may find yourself haunted by the notion that just acknowledging the existence of the problem is not, in itself, a solution. Maybe that's the real point? Who knows? And, Kempson and Collins seem to be saying, who cares?" Full Review
"This inscrutable potpourri of old-fashioned avant-garde eccentricities is well enough performed by a talented ensemble that seems to be having more fun than the audience; but their unusual characters are so dependent on highly stylized techniques that none have enough humanity to make you care a whit about them. This was one of those experiences where my eyes were on my watch almost as often as on the stage and where I applauded more for the play’s being over than for my appreciation of it." Full Review
"At certain points, one starts to wonder whether the cast has any idea of what's going on. Despite this, the performances remain energetic and imaginative throughout... Theater is a give and take. As integral as theatermakers are to the performance process, so too is the audience. 'Fondly, Collette Richland' simply sinks under the weight of its own desire to please itself." Full Review
"Where this show falls apart isn’t in the details, it’s in the bagginess with which they’re all strung together...Basically, this is a case of the Emperor’s new clothes, if the Emperor’s new clothes were a theatrical conceit. By the end, the amplified, mechanistic cranking sound effect that accompanies every set change might as well be the insular echo of self-applause. For, as bright as its occasional flashes of brilliance are, 'Fondly, Collette Richland' is too dazzled by itself to draw you... Full Review
"If coherence and intelligibility are among your requirements for a theatrical experience, this new play is definitely not for you. It has plenty of interesting characters, a clever set, Inspired costumes and an intricate sound design. Unfortunately these strong points are overwhelmed by the lack of a discernible narrative arc and an unfortunate tendency to pile on the surreal and the ridiculous beyond what the play can bear." Full Review
"If insanity and confusion is what theatre is about then playwright Sibyl Kempson and the Elevator Repair Service succeed with 'Fondly, Collette Richland.' If you love 'Saturday Night Live' skits one after another for almost three hours, this will be right up your alley, it is not up mine...I can’t even really tell you what this play is about and I forced myself to stay awake." Full Review
"You can't really criticize 'Fondly, Collette Richland' for not making sense, when nobody involved ever saw that as a goal. I would note, however, that this sort of mad, abstract lark is nothing new. It is also best enjoyed in small doses; at over two-and-a-half hours, this one is a challenge to audience stamina the likes of which I have rarely seen." Full Review
"Simply a mess. Produced with stilted language and divorced from actual emotions, it seems designed to force very good actors into producing terrible output. 'Fondly, Collette Richland' revels in off kilter pacing, unexplainable changes in tone and extra wacky characters. These things need not render a show unwatchable, but the added artificial pronunciation, surrealism and studied emotional non-reaction to events combine in a terrible mix." Full Review
"It’s an inside job, a show where snarky academics and performance artists can nudge each other and give a knowing wink, happy to be so much smarter than everyone else in the room...The rest of the audience is just bored, nodding off or checking their watches to see if the interminable first half of the show is ending any time soon so they can go...It’s simply not a play for people who enjoy a relaxing, or even mildly engaging, night at the theater." Full Review
"About a third of the audience left during the intermission, which finally arrived after nearly two hours. I have to believe that those who remained did so mostly out of politeness, believing that anyone with a vision so specifically bizarre must mean something important by it. I’m not convinced. Even if I were, I’d have left if I could, because worse than the nonsense — a lazy Susan of surrealistic clichés — is the aggression and insularity behind it." Full Review
See it if you like the ERS style and downtown vibe... and don't mind not understanding what is going on.
Don't see it if You like your theater polished and straightforward. If you hate quirky...
See it if you enjoy downtown experimental theater a la Richard Foreman, and are a fan of ERS's unique approach to dramatizing texts.
Don't see it if you need to be spoon-fed a linear plot with a decisive message.
See it if you like bizarre stories; you like non-linear, dream like sequences;
Don't see it if you need a coherent story; need a linear plot; need to understand what is going on; don't like a circus-like atmosphere and style.
See it if you enjoy being confused or not having a clear understanding. Definitely see it if you love experimental theatre.
Don't see it if If you're not a big fan of experimental theatre or if you don't like shows without a very clear plot.
See it if If you don't mind just going along for the ride in someone else's crazy fantasy. If you aren't always thinking, "where is this headed? "
Don't see it if you are hoping for some cosmic awareness at the end of the play, or even in the middle. If you have expectations of a play.
See it if you like being plunked down in a bewildering headspace w/o a clue where you are or where you're going but the sights may tickle your brain.
Don't see it if you want coherence, emotion or pace. It's made by a talented team making their own kind of music. They don't care if u don't hear a tune.
See it if you appreciate masterful acting and directing and ingenious stagecraft and can tolerate hours of unintelligible text.
Don't see it if you have a low tolerance for experimental theater and nonlinear, non-narrative texts -- and have a better idea about how to spend 3 hours.
See it if You want to laugh hysterically at adorable silliness and wonderfully funny acting
Don't see it if You’re not open to a show that is completely unlike anything you’ve seen before
See it if You like phenomenal design, Dadaist theatre, fully-committed and deeply-considered wackiness, hammy performers, tightly-wound joyful chaos.
Don't see it if You dislike non-narrative, abstract pieces without a clear message.
See it if Enjoy absurdist theatre featuring doses of cleverly nonsensical dialogue along with a skeletal plot, zestful acting, visually rich costumes
Don't see it if You have a sensitive radar for pretentiousness and prefer finished works, with a discernible plot and point of view, that can make you care.
See it if You're a fan of confusing, avant-garde cliches.
Don't see it if You don't want to be bombarded by a formless, meaningless piece of garbage. We walked out at intermission, and we weren't the only ones.
Get alerts about your favorite artists and theater companies