By Richard Garibay
I recently watched a great production of the newly written comedy ‘The Book of Andy’ by Michael J. Mejia at Bakersfield’s The Empty Space theater. My first impression of the donation-based theatre was that it’s true to its name in that the set designed by Mejia was quite sparse. All of the scenes in the play contained only a single piece of furniture such as a couch, a table or a six-foot artistic rendering of a circumcised penis.
Rarely am I distracted from such a minimalistic set, yet I didn’t mind it in this play because of the wonderful cast of actors who really brought the characters to life.
As the play opens, Benny, played by Michael Pawloski, is sitting at a table and smoking a cigarette while reciting a flamboyantly comic rant about relationships and the plight of gay men. In walks Andy, played by Miguel Torres, with Peter, played by Billy Joe Fox, who are celebrating their anniversary over dinner. During their meal, trouble erupts when waiter Luke played by Robert Corona flirts with Andy.
In order to keep the dinner pleasant, Peter proposes to Andy who can only respond with, “Yes! No! I don’t know…” and runs to the bathroom because of a serious colon problem. Jumping to the conclusion that Andy isn’t serious about the relationship, Peter breaks up with him.
Unfortunately, this leads Andy to visit his ex-boyfriends Matthew and Mark in order to explore what went wrong in each of their relationships with him. Seeing how happy they are without him angers Andy, so he tells one that he has cancer and the other that his kidneys are failing.
Things get out of hand when an article he was being interviewed for throughout the play is published. Because of a worsening colon situation, Andy is rushed to the emergency room.
Largely, I felt that ‘The Book of Andy’ was very well-written. Under the great cast and solid comedic moments there were small issues I found.
Entirely on the surface, Mejia tells the very tired story we’ve seen in hundreds of Hollywood’s romantic comedies. Meet the cliché couple with cliché problems that cause them decide to breakup, one of them gets into some funny situations leading the couple to reunite, rinse and repeat. Yet, this play avoided being a generic romantic comedy because the couple was comprised of two men.
Even though they might be stylistic in nature, I have two major criticisms of the play.
There was a lack of balance between the highly comedic first half and emotionally heavy second made it seem as though Mejia felt he had too much fun and wanted to tone it down midway through. Funny scenes were included in the second half but they weren’t as blatant as the first.
The second critique is the ending, which was so abrupt and stunted that I felt as if Mejia had a deadline he had to meet and quickly sped through the second half.
It left me feeling as though there needed to be more and was underdeveloped.
Overall I enjoyed ‘The Book of Andy’, and highly recommend you watch it.