Courtney Rizzo, MBA Class of 2015
The Signature Theatre has managed to differentiate itself in two ways from the dense population of Broadway and off-Broadway theaters around Times Square. Firstly, it devotedly sponsors new works by emerging and mid-career playwrights. Last week I saw Appropriate by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, one of seven playwrights that are part of the “Residency 5” program, employing the writers for five years to produce three new works. To draw in an audience that is not coming for a famous playwright or blockbuster actors, all tickets for the initial run of a show are capped at $25.
Set in a dilapidated house in Arkansas, a family reunites to settle the patriarch’s estate: the older brother with Manhattanite wife and two cell-phone obsessed kids, the recently divorced, maniac sister trying to connect with her teenage son and dealing with the grief of being her father’s caretaker, and the younger once-pedophile brother toting his hippie (and don’t worry, over age) fiancée. There are plenty of interpersonal dynamics to go around; the fighting got tiresome early in Act I.
By the time I came back from intermission realizing the play’s title was probably “appropriATE” rather than “apPROpriate,” a scrapbook with old pictures of lynched African-Americans is the center of the family’s estate debate. This strange collection brings out the characters’ curiosity, denial, greed, and true feelings toward one another. The changes in emotion kept it exciting until the dark ending.
Secondly to Signature’s credit, the theatre has turned its open concept lobby into a genuine post-show hangout. With up to three theaters emptying into the space throughout the evening and actors exiting here rather than a shady side alley, conversation is created around what you just saw and what shows Signature Theatre has opening or closing. And, if you forget, you can reference the larger-than-life size touch screens, although when I saw two girls try it the interface didn’t react.
Not to limit their potential customers, it offers 25% off food and alcohol if you bring a ticket stub after seeing any show at any theater that day. The café goes way beyond the usual grab-at-intermission fare, and there is even live music to continue the fun of seeing live performance. Although probably not planned, there was a blues style trio when I went last week, which worked well off the Southern themes in Appropriate. It makes for a good date night without the hassle of planning. I applaud Signature for thinking outside the box to find a strategy that makes customers stay longer and spend more money. Maybe that will subsidize the $25 tickets!