'Breakfast Club' Better Than Ever

Original cast of the 1985 film The Breakfast Club

The landscape of New York theater has changed dramatically over the last decade. Disney now dominates 42nd Street, and almost all successful productions on the Great White Way are uninspired book and movie adaptations. With such reliance on spectacle, performers must hit their marks and deliver their songs exactly the same way every show. There is a big difference between being live and being alive, and productions on Broadway (and, to a lesser extent, Off-Broadway) haven't come to life in quite some time.

The Kraine Theater on East Fourth Street, however, is doing more than its share to revive this dwindling theater scene with Dana Discordia's triumphant You See Us as You Want to See Us…Reflections From the Breakfast Club. This electric version of John Hughes's 1985 film (and current TBS staple) is no standard adaptation of the original, currently celebrating its 20th anniversary. Instead, it's a botox-injected face-lift that proves the movie is no worse for the wear while giving it an entirely new slant.

Breakfast, which has received multiple extensions and is currently scheduled to play until April 30, owes its genesis to EchoHill Productions, which was formed by Discordia and Dan Lobel, the show's press rep. It still features five high school outcasts serving a Saturday detention for various reasons. But this quintet has morphed slightly into "a faggot, a fat girl, a foreigner, a bitch, and an asshole." These roles modify Emilio Estevez's Andrew in the film (now Sean Doran), Ally Sheedy's Allison (Amorika M. Amoroso), Anthony Michael Hall's Brian (Rommel Quimson), Molly Ringwald's Claire (Kelly Rauch), and Judd Nelson's John (Mike Van Steyn). David Tatch rounds out the ensemble with his version of Principal Vernon.

This is a production tailor-made for fans of the movie, but with an emphasis on the comedic (and, perhaps to Generations X and Y, iconic) moments in the movie. Director-producer Discordia, a veteran satirist, knows which scenes stand out-lunchtime, running through the halls, Claire's clever lipstick application, and the students' confessions about what landed them in detention-and sends them all up. In addition, Discordia turns the film's more dramatic moments into flashes of comedy.
Given what seems to be such firmly dictated material, there is also far more improvisation than one might expect.

Cast of new play by Dana Discordia.

The show was already in solid shape when it opened last December, but at a recent February performance, each portrayal was even stronger and more raucously embellished, with much room for improvisation. Discordia encourages his cast to think of new character bits to throw out, so no two shows are the same-the way that theater should be but so often is not. It's hard to imagine that performances of a show like Dirty Rotten Scoundrels or Little Women are not interchangeable from one evening to the next.

Of course, the credit should go to the Breakfast ensemble. Rarely has a cast so clearly and confidently jelled. They all understand each other's rhythms to a remarkable degree, and their combined energy makes a unique tapestry. One would never want to lift even one of the principals out.

"The show is ever-evolving," Discordia says. He is right, both in terms of the physical aspects of the production, part, and while the ideas and people from that whose set design has expanded and opened up much of the play's action, and the performances themselves. The comedy has gotten bigger and broader. Doran has enormous fun toying with the now—flamboyant character of Andrew and adds new bits from evening to evening. Amoroso has an 11th-hour monologue that morphs from one performance to the next. A running gag making fun of both Claire's vapidity and the career of Ringwald, her original portrayer, has grown since opening night and become even zanier. Even Tatch's back story for the crusty principal has changed.

is a show where familiarity breeds comfort rather than contempt. This is a production designed for return audiences. It is akin to hanging out with your best friends-you know what you're in for, but you get something new out of the experience every time.

You See Us as You Want to See Us: Reflections From The Breakfast Club runs through April 30th at the Kraine Theater. To read Doug's review of the show, click here.

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