‘Mrs. Mayfield’s Fifth-Grade Class of ’93 20-Year Reunion’ – Review
Richard Brown, who has taught film in New York City for the past 40 years, speaks of “getting on the ride” when it comes to an audience making a connection to characters in a movie. In the best of cases the viewers get on the ride early on; but all too often they never get on the ride.
The concept of getting on the ride is applicable to plays as well and literally so in “Mrs. Mayfield’s Fifth-Grade Class of ’93 20-Year Reunion,“ a play set in an East Village fifth floor walk-up. Imagine a play where you spend the entire evening socializing with the cast and others in the audience and what the impact of this is.
“Whether you’re 18 or 80, you are 30 years old and you were in Mrs. Mayfield’s fifth-grade class of 1993,” the audience is told in a printed set of rules. The hostess, Amanda (Diana Oh), recently received a letter she wrote for placement in the fifth grade time capsule 20 years earlier, prompting thoughts of a reunion.
So hail, hail, the gang’s all here, although there have been, ahem, some changes that make it hard to recognize a few of your fellow third-graders.
It’s an evening of reminiscence, disclosure, infidelity, and sex. A memorable line is delivered by Jamie, the somewhat socially awkward bowtie-wearing provider of a pot of chili, when he bursts into the bedroom saying, “If this is a sex party, there really ought to be condoms provided,” thereby prompting everyone to move to the living room for a peek at what’s taking place there.
The immersive performance by Caps Lock Theater puts members of the audience in the role of fellow reunion guests. Upon arrival, audience members choose from a green name tag (characters in the play will interact with you) or a red one, to remain a passive observer. The night I attended, most tags were green.
The reunion takes place across multiple rooms of an apartment (exactly whose apartment this is isn’t made clear, but diplomas and certificates hanging on the walls suggest that the occupant has an academic or professional background and includes one as a Reverend Mother and another for Reiki). Scenes are played throughout the apartment, in some cases simultaneously, and it’s usually possible to hear what’s going on in another room and relocate accordingly.
Upon arrival, my theater companion and I put ourselves into alumni mode and started chatting with other guests, telling them they looked the same as they had in fifth grade and inquiring about what they have been doing since then. I found I was almost instantly on the ride and not only cared about a few specific characters (most notably Crystal and Joey) but was intrigued with their backstories and what they had been up to since our days in Mrs. Mayfield’s classroom.
“This party was a lovely thought, if vastly misguided and incredibly inappropriate,” said the mysterious Joey, who hadn’t even been in Mrs. Mayfield’s class.
At the end, all I knew is that I’m looking forward to seeing everyone again in ten years at the 30-year reunion of Mrs. Mayfield’s Fifth-Grade Class of ’93. This is immersive theater at its best so don’t pass up an opportunity to sample it.
(Photo: Accura Media Group)