Review: 'Animals out of Paper'

 

3.5 stars

Spotlight Players, Dreyling Stage; directed by Mac Bellner. Rising playwright Rajiv Joseph (current Pulitzer Prize nominee for "Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo" has been lauded for his “liberated stage vocabulary,” but

his Animals

out of Paper

would translate easily to film.

The

story of a young origami prodigy (strong performance from college

actor Nick Heskett) and his mentor (Kristi Wilkinson Gross) is fairly

traditional in terms of plot, dialogue, form and structure. Two huge

and hugely troubled intellects come together, clash and ultimately

add to each other’s lives.

What

makes the play worthwhile is actually the quirky math teacher who

brings the professional paper folder and white teen rapper together.

With lovable literalness, Andrew (the enjoyable James Gross) has been

counting his blessings since the age of 12, logging thousands of

small life events in his pocket diary, often turning misfortunes

(broken elbows, lost girlfriends) into good fortune.

His

inner timing is delightfully out of sync with the rest of the world,

whether he’s ringing a doorbell or courting a woman. Unlike the

paper-folding geniuses who follow intricate steps and inspired

improvisations to create complicated paper animals and boxes, Andrew

hasn’t a clue as to what will happen next. There is just enough

pointed humor in Animals

and

dark ambivalence about the way it ends — who helped who and who

hurt who — to make me seek out Rajiv Joseph again, as well as

the Beech Grove community theater that introduced us. Through Feb. 6

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