Annoying coffee orders, simple transactions that take too long, annoying social media posts; these things aren’t illegal, but they’re something. They need something — not the police, but an avenger of sorts … a social avenger. This is part of the premise for Daydream Theatre’s world premiere of Lenny Schwartz’s The Social Avenger. Only part, however, because this show is so much more. At the heart of it is Jack, played impeccably by Johnny Sederquist, as he copes with the mortality of his father. This leads him on a journey of avenging society. If there is something wrong, from obnoxious customers to men who don’t respect women, the social avenger is there to lay down his brand of justice. You don’t want to take your eyes off Sederquist, which is good since he never leaves the stage, as he delivers social justice with vigor, honesty and hilarity, all wrapped in a Woody Allen-esque shell. Sederquist frequently breaks the fourth wall in some of the funniest moments of the show. As he works off of the crowd’s energy, you can see how this show changes each night. Sederquist is an immense talent who can switch from delivering hilarious lines to more serious monologues on a dime.
Julian Trilling does a lovely job as Jack’s love interest. In a cast of over-the-top characters, she plays the ingénue perfectly. Her character steadies the rest, and it isn’t an easy role to tackle in this show, but she makes it look like it is. Local screenwriter J.P. McCormick slays as he switches from an obnoxious overgrown child to a father who has no time for his child to a sleazy Southern politician. Another performer who switched roles frequently is Candice Sampson. Sampson is a fantastic comedic actress, and Schwartz’s new script gave her the opportunity to showcase her talents.
I went to The Arctic Playhouse after a long week, thinking that this was going to be a raunchy comedy that would keep me laughing. And parts of it certainly did. However, I was not prepared for the poignant moments in this play. Of course Sederquist’s ability to turn the comedy on and off as he did is a testament to his talent, but it can’t go without saying that Schwartz’s script has pockets of beautiful and truthful moments. I was pleasantly surprised that the show had me reach for my tissue. Schwartz’s script tackles common experiences: being the strong one in the times of familial tragedy, using various coping methods to get through these times and simply questioning why members of a society can’t just be considerate to one another. There is no hand holding Kumbaya moment where this epiphany happens (thank God) but as it unfolds you see aspects of society you’ve witnessed. And this unfolding does what good theater should do — it makes you think. Bravo to Schwartz for writing a script full of laughs, breathtaking essays and Hamtanic. (And the greatest recorded curtain speech thanks to Callie Schwartz!) This is a fun night you don’t want to miss; however, fellow parents, leave the kids at home. This is not a show for the family. But with reasonably priced tickets and free cookies and coffee, you can certainly spring for a babysitter! (And if you do, the lobby opens at 7pm for pre-show drinks!)
The Social Avenger runs until May 21 at The Arctic Playhouse, 117 Washington Street in West Warwick. For tickets, visit thearcticplayhouse.com.