“You’re a Weirdo, Annie Best” presented by Fresh Fruits Festival’s All Out Arts, 2022 reviewed by Yvonne Tutelli, “The Theatre Tattler”
Erin Shin Brady’s background as a social worker and therapist is the foundational support to this sensitive polyamorous tale of theys and thems, we’s and she’s recently mounted at the Wild Project on the lower east side. Under the direction of Maddie Rostami, the confounding situational queer rom-com takes to the Festival stage with hope and heart.
As a straight person, I had to sit upright and pay attention as focal character Annie Best (Juliet Roll/ she/her) stays her welcome in a relationship with Nate (Jahill T Hall /he/him/they) while living with her longtime girlfriend Chris.
Everybody is busy in this piece: when not engaging in new romantic pursuits with Annie, Nate spends time with his male partner Jess (Ronnie Williams/he/him). A talented foodie, and a soon-to-be confidante of Chris’s, William’s Jess is a lover, of all– and all details.
But hold up—it won’t be long till we discover that Annie’s live-in girlfriend can swing all ways herself, and after a bout of depression, she finds solace and new potentiality with Jess, making a Christmas Eve double-date an extra special action-packed special event.
This is the 20th Anniversary of New York’s heralded Fresh Fruit Festival, All Out Arts 2022, and of the plays seen thus far (the Festival continues through the 14th), this is the most ambitious in its reach-out to the everyday hetero, or anybody else watching who is interested and curious as to how these things work. I am speaking of the fluidity with which the dizzying switch-offs between partners becomes so natural that even I, the raging aging exotic cougar that I am, can be drawn into understanding. Sorta. I’ve never met a more accepting group of human beings.
Writer Annie is on a life quest to find her best self opening the show in a scene with Nate, a new male love interest. A student of movies, books, and Nora Ephron rom-coms, Annie has a tendency to search a deeply, explore fastidiously, and care overtime. Annie is a weirdo: she’s inquisitive and curious and continually needing to explain and substantiate the underlying reasons for all of her life encounters sussing out meaning in every experience.
Lawyer girlfriend, Chris, played by stunner Julianna Mitchell (she/her), brings her down to earth, but is overwhelmed by Annie’s need to have every answer. Something’s been bothering Chris for a while now, and she just needs some well-deserved space. Is it Annie’s new fling with Nate what has Chris so discombobulated? Seems reasonable to me, that such jealousy could exist, even in this in this fluid and acceptable
just be you/youse lifestyle, but I am certain I don’t know how that goes, and “You’re a Weirdo, Annie Best” opens a dialgoue and window into an unapologetically polyamorous lifestyle as I don’t know it.
Playwright Brady delves into happiness: What is it? How do you find it? If one’s family doesn’t accept you, how do you find your queer chosen family? The cast of very relatable actors certainly explore all of possibilities available to them, through holiday cheer the queer way, in fact a double date with characters Annie, Nate, Chris and Jess goes doobly double; everyone is doing everyone. In a stark holiday karaoke bar scene Annie up-stagegedly grabs the mic and sing-outs out proud Tammy Wynette’s most classic anthem, assuring us that people are just people, and we should stand up for all of our many Selves.
Life goes on and we find that seat of Chris’ depression is the result of a recent dumping by her outside girlfriend Kate, a situation fully known and accepted by Annie. Annie’s intense curiosity seems to all stem from the chaos caused by her mother’s death and her father’s intolerance of her explorative nature.
The boys seem blissfully happy and content some how. And why wouldn’t they be? They’ve got it all.
A long-time-coming meeting with her estranged father (Greg Mills) is one of the strongest package-wrappers of Brady’s protagonist Annie.
“I’m not going to compromise my life to be a better daughter for you! Annie stubbornly proclaims, “Why can’t you be curious about the things you don’t know? Annie rails on her conventional Dad, played by Mills to tolerant perfection.
In one scene, one of Annie’s mentors, Nora Ephron (Juliana Forrest/she/her) pays a visit from the other side, dropping in to offer advice and soothe Annie’s frazzled nerves with a big pot of mashed potatoes.
Annie asks of everyone all the questions everyone wants to ask, but doesn’t. Sometimes the simplest answer is the best, or so the Ephron persona seems to intimate.
“You’re a Weirdo, Annie Best” explores the themes of polyamorous love, of life, and of what’s of value in humanity’s slogging search for family and belonging.
“If you’re happy, won’t you be a better partner?” Annie’s question is one we all ponder. This hopeful play explains the many diverse paths to figuring it all out in a world where we are all feel, at one time or the other, ‘fundamentally misunderstood.’