Confetti Stage is known for bringing lesser- or never-seen works to the Capital Region – a savvy move, as this is something we’re lacking, but a risky one, as people fear change. “Mary Kate Olsen is in Love,” directed by Sunny da Silva, is definitely a new show – and definitely a risky one.
Grace (Maghen Ryan) is stuck in a go-nowhere life, working a job that she doesn’t care about, coming home to watch television and fall asleep on the couch, wake up to the alarm and do it all over again. Her husband Tyler (Kevin Ruby) is in a similar state of stasis – he lost his job years ago and does nothing but play video games, live off Grace’s paycheck and consume pizza, soda and pot. Enter Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen (Vivian Wilson-Hwang and Emily Bryan) – yes, the actresses/fashion designers. Grace is their new target demographic and they end up sticking around, for various reasons.
It’s got a bit of the theater of the absurd and magic realism about it and it’s billed as a “funny play about sad people,” which is apt. There’s a Greek chorus of young women – The Amazing Girls – who also act as stage crew between monologues about how hard it is to live up to expectations in today’s world, and the play runs with this theme. Mary Kate and Ashley don’t know what they want to do next – what comes after acting and fashion design and being just plain famous? Grace did everything she was supposed to – went to a good school, married her high-school sweetheart, got a good job – but she can’t even make it to her bed to sleep, and her husband won’t interact with her. Tyler couldn’t keep his job and is worried he’s going to lose his wife – but is so immobilized by it all he decides it’s too late to do anything about it.
Wilson-Hwang and Bryan are the stars here as the Olsen twins – Wilson-Hwang has never performed in a single show I’ve seen her in where she wasn’t a standout, and Bryan, a new-to-me actress, held her own in the role; I hope to see her on stage again. Ruby’s Tyler had understated power – I just wish he’d projected a bit more vocally, but for a role with so little to do, he owned it. Ryan had some good moments as Grace – it’s a tough role, as the character has to accept every unreal thing being thrown at her, while keeping a sense of gravitas about her.
“How do we know what to want?” Grace says at a pivotal moment, and this, to me, is the crux of this piece – in a world where everyone seems to know what they want, when you don’t know, you feel like the ultimate outsider. Watching these people try to figure out what to want isn’t an easy thing – but theater isn’t always supposed to be easy. I’m glad we have groups that take risks and remind us of that.
“Mary Kate Olsen is in Love”, Confetti Stage, 67 Corning Place, Albany, through May 7, $15-$10, Run time: 1 hour, 25 minutes, (518) 460-1167, https://confettistage.org/