After a hit run at The Bushwick Starr, The Mad Ones' bittersweet missive about endurance and surrender in a late '80s American high school transfers to Playwrights Horizons. More…
It's 1988 and the planning committee for Garrison High School's ninth annual 'Miles For Mary' Telethon is fired up and ready to go. Across subcommittee sessions in the phys-ed teachers' lounge, Drama Desk-nominated The Mad Ones assemble an analog elegy to the camcorder 1980s, girls' track and field, and the consecrated American high school.
“First up is ‘Miles for Mary,’ a company project from The Mad Ones, a New York City-based troupe dedicated to creating ‘ensemble-driven highly detailed theatrical experiences that examine and illuminate American nostalgia.’ Seen previously at The Bushwick Starr during the 2016-17 season, ‘Miles for Mary’ is a brilliant satire on group dynamics in an ongoing school fundraising committee told in real time.” Full Review
"Intensely satisfying experience...Scripted and acted with laser-precision by a flawlessly committed cast of six, along with the help of director and credited co-writer Neugebauer...One of the funniest new theatre pieces in recent memory, its deliciously nasty sense of humor spawning from the inherent comedy of seeing the most uncomfortable moments of life reflected right back onto the audience." Full Review
"Comedy gold in the least likely of situations...As 'Miles for Mary' finds hilarity in these petty bureaucrats and the mind-numbing minutiae of their plans, it finds a certain sympathy for them...The cast seems to know everything about these characters...Sometimes seems like the greatest Nichols and May sketch. But everything about it has been executed with an astonishing precision, and it all contributes to the overall effect...Funniest new show in town." Full Review
"The hottest comedy in New York this winter. Anyone who has ever suffered through a staff meeting will immediately recognize the passive-aggression and petty slights that dot this 110-minute howler...The troupe benefits from the leadership of Lila Neugebauer, the most skilled director of ensembles working in New York today. The complexity that she and the company bring to every moment makes this rather bland high school office a treat to behold." Full Review
"Passive aggression, as a sly and infuriating art, has surely never been practiced as entertainingly...Both a happy product of and a ruthless portrait of the collaborative process. It also turns out to present a most ingenious acting challenge, in which rage and resentment may be expressed only indirectly...This production slides from surface comedy into an unexpected realm of emotional substance, where laughter increasingly comes with a catch in its throat." Full Review
“I…needed…time to assimilate the circumstances and characters before the humor began to creep under my skin. The approach taken under Neugebauer's subtle direction suggests the kind of dry, straight-faced comedy you get from the best British comedy. The actors all are perfectly in tune with their roles, taking them seriously and not at all playing for laughs; once you catch on, though, you begin to notice the nuances…that betray their underlying comic intentions.” Full Review
"A fly-on-the-wall piece with no discernible plot, shocking revelations, or villains...The backbiting and squabbling that follows has a comically cathartic intensity...A carefully orchestrated slice of nostalgia, a bittersweet portrait of teamwork...Using low-key acting and overlapping dialogue, and avoiding traditional scene buttons, the play keeps you focused on the interpersonal dynamics...Excellent actors - all doing extremely colorful, nuanced work." Full Review
"The production is receiving a much-deserved second viewing...Sharply crafted characterization elevates The Mad Ones from an extended comedy sketch into a great piece of theater...'Miles for Mary' will hit a nerve for anyone who's butted up against a difference of opinion. Its nostalgic 1980s throwback provides a quirky backdrop, but its themes of human validation and sensitivity are timeless." Full Review
"The winning play fulfills the company’s mission with little fanfare and much affection...Truly a case of creation by committee, rather than being pulled in different directions, it is amazingly cohesive. Director and cast are one. It’s hard to single anyone out because they’re so enmeshed with each other...Devoid of bells and whistles, 'Miles for Mary' celebrates the truly mundane with an eye for detail and an ear for humor." Full Review
"Spot-on, deadpan funny look at a year’s worth of planning committee meetings for a local telethon at an Ohio high school...It’s clear that the Mad Ones collaborate better than the half dozen members of the planning committee...'Miles for Mary' might ignite memories among theatergoers who have ever worked for volunteer organizations. It could even provoke recollections of their high school years, and the realization that their teachers and coaches must have been human beings." Full Review
"The meetings are a hilarious case study in group dynamics run amok...There is much to enjoy here. The writing...negotiates a delicate balance between realism and satire. The ensemble is flawless...It’s all well-observed and often amusing, but becomes repetitive after a while. 'Do More' may be the committee’s motto, but no one is quite sure what 'more' means. As one teacher observes, sometimes less is more. As one teacher observes, sometimes less is more." Full Review
"A meticulously observed, virtuosically performed ode to miscommunication...Director Lila Neugebauer excels at drawing nuanced, sensitive work out of her ensembles, and under her guidance all six actors turn in performances as meticulous as the set on which they move...It’s smart, it’s barbed, it revels in the wince-worthy, helplessly funny observation of human idiocy...I also left feeling wrung out." Full Review
"A very fine example of what ensemble work is. More than fine...They have discovered their characters inch by inch. They know who they are and whether we do or not is of no matter...We are, after all observing...We don't need all the dots connected for us...Where this play stumbles is in its structure...These actors are a pleasure to watch. They know their craft as performers. It is the story that needs some attention." Full Review
"Surprisingly, 'Miles for Mary' never gives the impression in performance of being a bunch of polished improvisations. Although you might want to escape the theater in the opening moments of these seemingly endless telethon planning sessions, a wry humor begins to weave its way through all the verbal meandering...Neugebauer’s direction and her superb ensemble prevent the play from wallowing in its sense of superiority to the profession being skewered." Full Review
"The main comedic element lies in our pleasure of watching grownups behave like children and intelligent grownups behave like fools. The main dramatic element is anticipation of the blowup we are sure will eventually occur. Certainly, under the capable direction of Lila Neugebauer, this is ensemble acting at its best...The problem is that with nothing really at stake...The fact that many in the audience did find the play entertaining is the triumph of style over substance." Full Review
"'Miles for Mary' plays on nostalgia, however if you are not nostalgic for that time frame and if slice of life shows are not for you, this show will bore you to tears. I was never one for group meetings and especially a series of them, no matter how well they are acted. This show is seriously well done, but the subject matter about hiding our feelings and time outs is long past." Full Review
"It doesn’t hit the bull’s eye on the target, but it’s only one mere circle away from it...What’s strong is that the characterizations offer many surprises...There’s lip-smacking potential here, but 'Miles For Mary' simply isn’t as constantly funny as a theatergoer would want. The audience did laugh now and then, but they didn’t for many long stretches – and yet they expected to. It’s a play that is oh-so-close, yes, but oh-so-far away, too...Here’s an ensemble worthy of an award." Full Review
"A rich seam of deadpan humour...'Miles for Mary' ends up running in circles around a single thought: meetings are hell. The cast invests plenty of madcap energy into those relentlessly trivial discussions, but their characters ultimately seem rather interchangeable and oddly devoid of skepticism or cynicism. Teachers usually have a well-developed nose for bullshit. Here they all jump into a large bucket of the stuff. And then they barely even notice that it stinks." Full Review
"What I see is a slender premise, funny in spots and consistently well-played, but stretched out beyond its comfort zone, to almost two intermissionless hours, and lacking a certain eccentricity that might light a fire under it. For what's on stage here is a bloated ensemble effort...The Mad Ones are being a little condescending to this bunch...Neugebauer directs the intricate interplay persuasively, and the actors fit comfortably into the faculty's insecure skins." Full Review
for a previous production "Your troubles lift from your shoulders while you're watching the show, a bittersweet comedy about high-school committee work in 1989...It's pure delight, an easy way to pay a few bucks for radiating pleasure...The company is hugely collaborative...And that collectivity has made for precision, invention, richness...Perhaps all this nostalgia doesn't apply if you don't remember the first Clinton administration. But for the rest of us, 'Miles for Mary' is being run in our honor and memory." Full Review
for a previous production "This meticulous creation from the Mad Ones theater troupe would send you bolting for the exit, if it weren’t so funny and unexpectedly touching...As directed by Lila Neugebauer, with a precision-tuned cast, the production cannily uses interactive acting to plumb the dysfunction in group dynamics...Their performances are so indivisibly linked that it would be an injustice to single one out...Neugebauer is fast establishing herself as one of the finest ensemble directors in New York." Full Review
for a previous production "The entire cast of 'Miles For Mary' is superb...The commonality of purpose among the cast is crystal clear. In a difficult play that consists of fast-paced and overlapping language they make it look seamless...The combination of actors, set and costumes comes together beautifully as integral pieces of the larger puzzle...The Mad Ones have created a thought-provoking piece not only about where the line is when it comes to getting things done but also about human interaction." Full Review
for a previous production "Stephanie Wright Thompson’s performance, and the acting across the company, is incredibly consistent and strong...A dramatic tone poem, so thick on atmosphere, I still worried toward the end about the thinness of the arc, the shallowness of its depths. Sure, I enjoyed myself but I didn’t know exactly why, or what for...Ultimately, the show’s relentless commitment to detail and unflagging performances succeeds as its own kind of marathon." Full Review
See it if A live-action, impeccably period-specific “The Office” with a LOT more existential dread is the kind of catharsis you need
Don't see it if You’re looking for a streamlined or action-heavy plot
See it if you like a show about ordinary teachers in the Midwest having a series of meetings. It sounds boring but it's interesting and moving.
Don't see it if There's no reason not to see it.
See it if You appreciate the theatre of power structures and are in the mood for a seriously intense comedy
Don't see it if You like comedy that doesn't force you to use your attention span and intellect
Also Lila Neugebauer is a god
See it if you’re up for an interesting, well written, terrifically acted, superbly directed, and very funny (at times) study of adult group dynamics.
Don't see it if you have never been part of a “team meeting” either for work or volunteer project — and won’t be able to believe the absurdity involved.
See it if you value fresh, vibrant theater; talky plays; were working in the 80s; can handle tense emotions burbling under the surface of pleasantries
Don't see it if you don't like naturalistic plays that bore into the excruciating minutiae of the mundane. Overlapping talking confuses you.
See it if a masterfully written & performed '80s-set play about interpersonal relationships and goal-achievement among educators sounds fascinating.
Don't see it if hyper-realistic dialogue (often awkward, often funny) doesn't interest you or plot-heavy plays are more your cup of tea.
See it if Due to the brilliantly deadpan performances on stage, the laughs just keep on coming. The observational humor is king in this play.
Don't see it if Planning a telethon has never been so much fun. The play doesn't make fun of the characters but embraces them and their lives. A MUST SEE!
See it if you're in the mood for a very funny ensemble piece that plays with/explores small-group dynamics
Don't see it if you're looking for something broad in plot/action: the drama here is all set in one room
See it if you appreciate superb acting that captures human nature subtleties of people annoying each other purposely or unintentionally
Don't see it if you need lots of action in storytelling versus all about individual character interactions and personality clashes.
See it if You have ever taken any kind of leadership workshops etc. it was a hilarious take on a low stake purpose having inflated stakes.
Don't see it if You only enjoy theatre with a strong resolved conflict. This was a near perfect slice of life piece.
See it if you'd like to see a play that probes the dynamics of workplace meetings -- & what they have to tell us about people & their interactions.
Don't see it if you can't see yourself sitting still through a workplace meeting, not just once, but several times over -- even if they're very funny.
See it if You want a relatable comedy presented by an outstanding collection of performers/creators! A perfect evening!
Don't see it if New plays or realistic shows aren't your cup of tea.
See it if you like character driven plays and have ever experienced the horrors of endless staff meetings.
Don't see it if you want a strong plot or if you have a committed belief in the value of staff meetings.
See it if you've ever attended a committee meeting, faculty or otherwise, and listened incredulously as the participants revealed themselves.
Don't see it if you need an action-packed script; this is all dialogue, much of it very funny
See it if It's back to the late 80's with the Mad One's funny, poignant & stinging ensemble theatre piece about a fundraiser led by the Phys Ed Dept
Don't see it if The start up's a little slow but with the superb acting of the ensemble & razor-sharp direction the payoff is big A devised theatre triumph
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