Downtown Theatre Goes Uptown With MANGELLA

Facebook profile updates…Twitter wars…LinkedIn networking…Skype avatars; all evidence of how the virtual world has integrated itself into the so-called “real world” to a degree that it is practically impossible to disconnect from it.  Such is the case for Ned, the protagonist for MANGELLA, a hilarious, touching multimedia production presented by Project:   Theater.

Ned is the scourge of the cyber world – a hacker terrorizing Asian gambling sites.  He and the love of his life Gabriella, his computer that acts more like a possessive girlfriend than a mainframe, spend their day extorting money through solicited network attacks, social networking, watching porn and playing an antiquated PC game.  Ned’s hacking pays for his isolated lifestyle as well as the drugs he uses on his father in an unorthodox treatment to try to evoke memories from his dementia-riddled brain, which is the result of multiple strokes.  But Ned’s father refuses to believe that his is anyone other than Mangella St. James a fictional black blues legend.  Ned’s cruel to be kind treatment of his father borders on insane – his father is the only living link left to his deceased mother whom he adored.  He straps his father down to a wheelchair with duct tape and forces him to watch old movies.   But one Flag Day, Ned has a surprise for his father and she is much more than either of them bargained for.

Lily, the hooker that shows up at Ned’s door to service his father, brings with her an air of mystery  that turns Ned’s whole world upside down. Like a glitch in the Matrix, she reveals to him that not everything is what it seems.  She allows him the opportunity for change – to start anew, but her tactics destroys Ned’s virtual existence, which yields tragic results for everyone.

Cheeky…thought-provoking…stylish, Ken Ferrigni penned a script that is ripe for the madness that is pop culture in the 21st century.  Director Joe Jung and scenic designers J.J. Bernard and did a masterful job bringing Ned’s reality to life.  The cast is equally entertaining.  Anthony Manna, who plays the role of Ned, is the epitome of a cyber geek, yet in his coldness, his yearning for love is palpable and heartbreaking.  Bob Austin McDonald portrayl of blues great Mangella is a real humdinger.  Ali Perlwitz is amazing as Gabriella and like Lily, Hannah Wilson stings. In fact, stole my interest from the very start. 

MANGELLA  is playing at the Drilling Company, located at 236 West 78th Street, for a limited engagement which has been extended to October 29.  I am used to going downtown to witness theatre such as MANGELLA, but I would gladly ride the one train uptown to see awesome experimental theatre like this.  If you’re looking for something deliciously macabre to watch this Halloween, I recommend MANGELLA.  It is Stephen King and Quentin Tarantino rolled into one.  You will not leave disappointed.

Photos:  Lee Wexler/ Images for Innovation