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The New Sincerity Review - A Comedy For The 99%

By Noel Schecter

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Erin Long and Maura Kidwell

Alena Smith’s The New Sincerity (presented by Theater Wit for the first time in the Midwest) is a richly written post-modern take on the already seemingly dated Occupy Movement. For those unaware, the Occupy Movement began on the west coast in 2009 before reaching critical mass in New York City a few years later. At the height of its popularity thousands of aging hippies, hipsters, and regular folks camped out in public spaces to voice their belief that the government no longer worked for 99% of the population. It was a lot of fun while it lasted, but eventually the police shut it down. Now we are just left with a yelling Bernie Sanders.

Drew Shirley, Alex Stein and Maura Kidwell

Entering this world is the serious writer Rose (Maura Kidwell) who pens the type of lengthy essay that everyone praises but few people ever read. Befriending her in the office is the perpetual intern Natasha (Erin Long who is consistently hilarious throughout) who encourages Rose to have an affair with her boss for no other reason than she hates his over achieving fiance (who is about to publish a book describing her generation as utterly apathetic and uninterested in the political process). This boss, the self-important editor Benjamin (Drew Shirley) appears to have an interest in Rose but maybe lacks the courage to fully make his move. When Rose decideds to write about the Occupy Movement, Benjamin is quick to say no. But the allure of a thousand drum circles is too difficult for Rose to resist and soon she is smack dab in the movement and flirting with a young occupier. Benjamin at first is outraged but quickly has a change of heart and begins to use his magazine to broadcast the Occupy ideals.

Alex Stein and Maura Kidwell

There is a quite a lot to recommend about The New Sincerity. For starters the cast is darn near close to perfect in their portrayal of characters that in less capable hands might feel a bit one dimensional. The set, designed by Adam Veness, is also worth a tremendous amount of praise as the actors inhabit a perfectly recreated, almost impossibly airy Manhattan office. Director Jeremy Wechsler paces the material well and for the most part allows audience members to realize certain insights at the same time as the characters.

The inherent flaw with the material, however, is within Smith’s development of Rose’s character. Benjamin’s magazine, Asymptote (which refers to a line that almost, but not quite reaches a distant curve) is more metaphor than publication. Some characters, like Rose, are quick to jump over that line. And given her infatuation with a flaky and very honest occupier this makes sense. What makes less sense, though, is her lack of concern over Benjamin’s motivation in doing so. It is not very likely that any journalist, let alone someone as competent as Rose, would be so utterly lacking in cynicism. 

In the end, the new sincerity referenced here is fleeting and insincere, a fad that miraculously survived for a few years but ultimately left the parks empty. Come to think about it, the new sincerity feels a whole lot like the old one.

Bottom Line: The New Sincerity is recommended for its clever writing, excellent acting, and amazing stage design. It is playing at Theater Wit (1229 N. Belmont) through April 17th. Tickets are $12-$36 and can be purchased at TheaterWit.org or by calling (773) 975-8150. For more theater information and reviews, go to theaterinchicago.com.

 

Photos by Charles Osgood 

 

 

 

 

Published on Mar 09, 2016

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