Atlanta Art Reviews by Susan K Asher
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Sensational, Award-winning Play ‘Bike America’ at Alliance Theatre

2013 February 16
Jessica DiGiovanni, Brandon Hirsch, Tom White, and Je Nie Fleming; Photo: Greg Mooney

Jessica DiGiovanni, Brandon Hirsch, Tom White, and Je Nie Fleming; Photo: Greg Mooney

The one thing you know pretty quickly when watching the Kendeda Award-winner for Best Play by a student playwright, this ain’t no amateur playwright.  Within the first 20 minutes of the play, I pegged him as the next Neil Simon, replete with wit, comedic genius and originality, a man who could end up writing a slew of outstanding comedic plays.

Turns out, he basically has already done that.

“Bike America,” now running on the Hertz Stage at the Alliance Theatre, is pretty close to brilliant. Throughout the play there are scenes, situations and lines that are so smart, original and off-beat, you wonder where the hell the writer ever come up with that  story. Forget trite theater and common storylines. This is one hell of a situation that only the brightest of minds could imagine.

Penny (Jessica DiGiovanni) has had it as a graduate student, with her meaningless classes and her needy boyfriend, Todd (Matt Nitchie). In an attempt to discover a new life, she signs up for the Bike America tour for cancer.  Who cares that she’s only biked four days at the gym before beginning the cross-country trek with a small group that will be biking six hours a day. She’s determined to manage it.

The situations and characters, although entirely different, are as outlandish as those on the TV show “Seinfeld.” Playwright Michael Lew paints a clear picture of the towns the cyclists visit and and the characters Penny meets along the way. All wacky but totally believable. There’s no caricature here, just pure essence of life. Even the most notable actor, Marilyn Torres–who plays three characters–is believable as Todd’s mother, a mix of George Burns and Edward G. Robinson, and is quite the mixture of Gracie Allen and Rosie Perez as Annabelle, the gay girlfriend to Roxy.

A decade after graduating from Yale, where he studied science, and double majored in English and theater, playwright Michael Lew went to Julliard where he continued to study playwriting. He was a staff writer for PBS Kids and presently writes for The Blue Man Group.

He’s already gotten more offers to write for TV. His credits already are astounding.

The Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition receives submissions from all over the country.  BIKE AMERICA playwright Mike Lew. The Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition is a one-of-a-kind competition that transitions student playwrights to the world of professional theatre. The Competition is open to all final year playwriting students at invited MFA programs throughout the country.

“Bike America” runs on the Hertz Stage at the Alliance Theatre through Feb. 24, 2013.

Directed by Mortiz von Stuelpnage, the cast of BIKE AMERICA includes  Je Nie Fleming, Brandon Hirsch, Maurice Ralston  and Tom White.

About Mike Lew

Mike Lew’s plays include Bike America, microcrisis (Ma-Yi, NYC; InterAct Philadelphia);Stockton  (Ensemble Studio Theatre workshop, NYC); People’s Park (Victory Gardens Ignition Festival, Chicago); Yit, Ngay  (published in Plays and Playwrights 2006); Neanderthal Love  (Sloan commission); Bury the Iron Horse; and Paper Gods.  His shorts include Tenure  (24 Hour Plays on Broadway);  Roanoke  (Humana Festival, Louisville); In Paris You Will Find Many Baguettes but Only One True Love  (Humana Festival, Louisville; InspiraTO Festival Winner, Toronto); Moustache Guys  (Second Generation, NYC); Virtual Congress (Keen Company commission); The Roosevelt Cousins, Thoroughly Sauced  Sam French Festival winner); and Magician Ben Vs. The Wizard Merlin (published by Smith & Kraus). Several of his short plays are published by Playscripts.

Mike is a Heideman Award winner and a four-time finalist four years in a row, and winner of the 2007 Battle of the Bards.  Along with his wife Rehana Lew Mirza, he is co-director of the Ma-Yi Writers’ Lab, the largest collection of Asian-American playwrights ever assembled in the history of recorded time.  Other memberships/residencies include Ensemble Studio Theatre, Old Vic New Voices, At Play Productions, Youngblood (alum), and TCG Young Leaders of Color.  Training: Juilliard (2012), Yale (2003). View his website at mikelew.com.

 

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