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All Things Stinky

Theatre Review by Matthew Murray

All Things Stinky, the Waterfront Ensemble production in the Midtown International Theater Festival, is a combination of five short plays by Carl Gonzalez. Though connected by a very tenuous thematic link having to do with distaste, if you smell something funny in the theatre, rest assured, that's exactly what Gonzalez wanted.

The plays and the eight actors that perform in them are hilarious at best and amusing at worst. The plays often seem to resemble episodes of Seinfeld or the types of work you may see on sketch comedy shows, and the plays all have a similar "hit or miss" sense about them. Gonzalez does quite well - each play does succeed, if not always completely - and seems to have achieved his primary goal of giving the audience a good time.

The sketches cover the subject matter you may be able to predict from the title. In one playlet, "Stinky Feet," the audience witnesses the harrowing initiation of a young man and a younger woman into the ugly real world of the shoe-selling trade. In another, "Black Magic Woman," one of the most detestable women alive does battle with her hospital room bedmate and the nurse taking care of them. In one, the Three Tenors themselves discover serious competition for their televised concerts, and in a fourth, a man must face his gorgeous girlfriend's terrible breath.

The last and funniest of the segments is entitled "The Santa Detail," and follows a trio of department store workers attempting to track down the perfect Santa Claus for their Christmas display. "The Santa Detail," in addition to being incredibly funny, is also the only one of the plays to truly utilize theatrical conventions to tell its story. It does so brilliantly.

Gonzalez also directed the piece and manages it to imbue it with a cohesive, continuous feeling that simultaneously evokes both television sketch comedy and theatrical improvisation. If the content of the plays occasionally leans too far to the former, when Gonzalez embraces the latter, he creates something truly special. All Things Stinky may not be perfect, but it is an entertaining diversion which will convince its audience that even a play about contemptible odors can come out smelling like a rose.

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Waterfront Ensemble
All Things Stinky
In the Midtown International Theater Festival
Through July 29
The New 42nd Street Theatre, 348 West 42nd Street between 8th and 9th Avenues
Tickets $15 per show / Festival Pass $99
Festival Schedule and Tickets: Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200