Monday, October 30, 2023

I Need That (Broadway)

♣♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

Sam (Danny DeVito) is a nice guy, but what many would consider to be a hoarder. His house is a mess and not devoid of clutter, leading him to live a life of messy seclusion. He does get regular visits from his friend Foster (Ray Anthony Thomas) who brings him the bad news of his impending eviction. The neighbors are complaining about Sam’s trash intruding public space, and they want him to shape up or leave. He thinks they are just being nosey. His daughter Amelia (Lucy DeVito) kind of agrees with the neighbors, though, and believes this is the right time for her father not just to declutter his residence, but also his life in general. Does Sam have the strength to snap out of his disorganized misery or will he end up losing his home, along with a daughter and a friend? Now he must decide what is treasure and what is rubbish.

First, the set design. Onstage in front of you is a living room full of loose items, which is an absolute trigger warning for neat freaks and people with OCD. Like, you just want to get up there and clean that house for Danny DeVito. Hahaha. In a way, this is a triumph in production design because it doesn’t just establish the physical setting, but rather the psychological disposition of the protagonist as well. Sam seems like a jolly old chap alright, but he also looks messed up. On so many levels.

The rapport between father and daughter is palpable and natural, perhaps given the fact that they are indeed father and daughter in real life. There is no suspension of disbelief there. It makes you wonder whether their relationship is similar in real life? Whatever it is, they make a formidable onstage duo. As for Thomas, he is okay in the role of the obligatory friend, an honest but alternate perspective to jolt the protagonist back to his senses. Maybe the two men are also friends in real life. Who knows.

As straight as a straight play could get, I Need That is buoyed by the time and tested brand of comedy from the one and only Danny DeVito. The lines are kilometric and delve into monologue at times, which makes you admire the memory of these actors. Perhaps that has something to do with the dearth of characters involved. With just three of them confined in a messy living room, there is plenty of room for conversation and internal monologue despite the lack of physical space.

As for the play’s message, it is simple enough. Marie Kondo even made a livelihood out of it, now didn’t she? Most of the time, the space we occupy is a visual manifestation of our frame of mind, and that environment also affects our mindset. I Need That expands on that even further by delving into the distinction between treasure and trash. In the end, you just turn the title into a question: (Do) I (Really) Need That (?). Oftentimes, you don’t, but as human beings we just have this tendency to hold on to stuff, people, emotions. And that’s the epiphany that this play offers. Philosophical, to some extent.

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