Julia and Buddy – part of the Midtown International Theatre Festival
Review by Ashley Hutchinson
Many romances have a predictable mold. It’s easy to tell exactly who is going to get the girl (often the underdog best friend) or how the girl is going to get the boy (usually via some sort of mistaken identity and then a full, happy realization by the end). However, with Julia and Buddy, there is a quality of unconventionality about it. It opens on Julia, a fledgling philosopher (played by Claire Warden), locked in her room and having a panic attack. Finally a maintenance man named Buddy arrives (played by Matthew DeCapua), and we begin to see the inherent ironies these two people come with. Julia, a philosopher, tries to understand Buddy and “put together the pieces of the puzzle” as she puts it, while at the same exact time Buddy seems to realize that Julia knows very little about herself: Just as Buddy figures out that Julia is calling for a maintenance man to unlock her door, when she is actually afraid of leaving the house, Julia simultaneously realizes that even though the maintenance man is supposed to fix the ills of an apartment, Buddy quite literally can’t do any of the things in his job description. The two prove to be completely self deluded as to their actual standing in the real world, not fully comprehending their own ridiculousness. However, as I watched the two figure out the other’s flaws in front of me, I found myself completely transfixed by the actors playing caricatures of people, yet truly finding the realness of both of them. Though Julia’s various phobias and stigmas and Buddy’s multiple problems and shortcomings pose a certain threat to their respective sanity, the two find solace in their understanding of one another.
Julia’s knowledge of Buddy and Buddy’s acceptance of who Julia is contributes to the two becoming a little saner. In the end, the truly impressive thing about Julia and Buddy was the character development amongst the two actors onstage, and never have I seen a quirkier couple make more sense. At times the plot would become a tad winding, especially in the second section, which takes place on a boat. The two characters become even crazier, perhaps by portrayal, and the realness that was found in the first section became a tad faint as the characters began playing a little more into stereotype; Warden’s Julia becoming more “tortured philosopher” and DeCapua’s Buddy becoming more “easygoing actor.” This being said, however, the script was still rather charming even with the little twists and turns along the way, and was helped along by Julia’s discovering the topic of her academic speech/thesis by the end, once again through Buddy.
Further proving their perfect imperfections as a couple, and the clarity found when the two are together. With the perhaps disjointed second half the audience at least gets a sense of the two characters’ problems with each other and the dissimilarities between the two and their subsequent ability to overcome these differences.
With direction by N.G. McClernan, Warden and DeCapua make Julia and Buddy respectively, become true depictions of real people, even with a fantastical script. Thus, with various philosophical questions being asked throughout the show and modern stereotypes being broken, this was a romantic comedy that was anything but predictable.