Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Cherry Docs (Theatre of the Expendable)

BOTTOM LINE: Cherry Docs is a well-constructed, fascinating two-man play. A thought-provoking experience with stellar performances. And for only $11 a ticket, it's the same price as a movie but a much more fulfilling way to be entertained.

Sometimes off-off-Broadway is intensely good and you feel sort of bad that they're only charging $18 a ticket while some schlocky Disney musical is charging over $100 a head. Cherry Docs is exactly that kind of show. And their tickets are even cheaper than the standard.

Although this production marks its U.S. debut, Cherry Docs has been performed numerous times in Canada and was made into an indie movie in 2007 called 'Steel Toes' starring David Strathairn. Cherry Docs is the story of a Neo-Nazi Skinhead on trial for murder, and the Jewish attorney appointed to defend him. Tensions and animosity are high, since the men detest each other and all. But as the trial unfolds and both men strive for what they think is morally right, their beliefs are challenged and they begin to find somewhat of an understanding in each other. It's a fascinating character study, and always feels truthful.

The story is pretty intense and the two actors perform with conviction and strength. It's difficult to watch as the intensity peaks, but it held my attention completely for the entire 90 intermission-less minutes. I was consistently invested in the story, largely because the performances are so powerful. Mark Zeisler plays the lawyer, and has a pretty reputable resume including Brooklyn Boy and last year's eurydice at Second Stage. The actor who plays the skinhead (Maximilian Osinski) is making his New York theatre debut with Cherry Docs. Both are perfectly competent in their roles and really take the audience along on their emotional journey...it's impossible not to feel for these people.

Cherry Docs is just as entertaining as any movie about legal conflict and racial tension. Instead of Netflixing American History X, take your butt to see this play, and have a more visceral entertainment experience than sitting on your couch.

(Cherry Docs plays at the WorkShop Theatre's Mainstage, 312 West 36th Street, 4th Floor. Performances are through May 18th...Wed. through Sat. at 8pm and Sun. at 2pm. No performance Wed. April 30. Tickets are $11...visit theatremania.com to purchase.)

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