Monetizing Emma

By Pearl Chen

With PSAT scores through the roof, 15-year-old high school student Emma Dorfman has become a hot commodity. In the world of Monetizing Emma, Felipe Ossa’s inventive off-off-Broadway play now running (once again) at the FringeNYC Festival, she is not just a smart teenager; she’s an investment. In 2013, the Jane Austen-loving teen is part of the genius trust at Thackeray Walsh, a firm that finances her education by selling bonds to investors who will have a stake in her future earnings. Along the way, Emma becomes not only the target of two perfectly annoying bullies (Daniella Rabbani and Tovah Rose), but also the object of competition between two account managers (James Arden and Janice Mann), each employing increasingly manipulative tactics to represent “bond girl.”

emma

Nitya Vidyasagar in "Monetizing Emma."

The premise may be cynical and disturbing, but Ossa and director Leah Bonvissuto keep the play engaging with dashes of humor and a surprising amount of plot twists. Though a few scenes wander, the writing and direction are overall sharp and focused; what the black box production lacks in fancy stage settings or costume design, it makes up for in drama and a heroine that you come to root for. Nitya Vidyasagar portrays Emma with an intensity and anxiousness that, by play’s end, seems completely well-founded in light of the machinations she must endure. Emma finds a resolution that’s worthy of her intelligence, yet the play may leave a somewhat unresolved, nagging feeling in the audience. Fictional reimagining or not, the age of Thackeray Walsh seems eerily imminent…if not already a slice of reality.

*******

Monetizing Emma plays at the HERE Mainstage Theater (145 Sixth Ave. at Dominick) through Aug. 25. Tickets: $15.

Last 5 posts by Pearl Chen

Posted on 17 Aug 2010 at 5:36pm
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