BAD CONNECTIONS?

written by Michael Levesque
directed by Thom Fogarty          performed by Paul Cosentino

 

 

A hit at the Hollywood and Edmonton Fringe Festivals...

 

"PITCH-PERFECT PERFORMANCE!" – Bryant Kirkland 
"A Truly Satisfying Piece of Theatre" – Ashley Steed, Los Angeles Theater Review.

REVIEWS

 

Frindge Mania - Bad Connections?

Posted on September 11, 2013

‘You are not responsible for anyone’s reactions to how you live your life.’ I absolutely love this quote. It is something I feel a fair amount of guilt over at times but when it really comes down to it- it’s completely true. This is a quote from the play ‘Bad Connections?’ currently playing at Performance Works as part of the 2013 Vancouver Fringe Festival.

 

The production is phenomenal. The one man show, played by Paul Cosentino, depicts the lives of Nine New Yorkers. An unmarried couple with a young child and another on the way, their ailing grandfather who has just about given up on life, another couple involving a bitter Jewish woman and her doctor husband who has a gay lover on the side, and your Indian host for the night, who speaks in soothing tones directly to the audience, conducting calming exercises and offering words of wisdom.

Bad Connections deals with the intertwining lives of all the above characters and how an individual’s choice can indirectly affect an entire chain of people. Simultaneously it promotes the fact that positive choices can affect others as well. Bad Connections, Good connections- they are all connections and we are all inextricably linked.

Cosentino’s performance is astounding- fluidly transitioning from character to character, complete with vastly different accents and physicalities. He has the controlled and flexible body of a yoga master and the intensely captivating vocal abilities of a trained actor. He absolutely blew me away with his talent and his endurance in performing various vastly physical, emotional and challenging characters within a one man show lasting for an entire hour.

If you are looking for a fringe production that is a little more thought provoking, slightly more serious, and certainly high calibre, I think you’ve found it.

EDMONTON SUN

Reviewed by: Chad Huculak

August 19, 2010 

Rating: *****

 

“The universe is perfect,” announces an East Indian guru to the audience gathered to see Bad Connections?, “and if you are here it was because you were meant to.”

Stop, look, listen — the universe is trying to tell you something: try and nab a ticket to the one man show Bad Connections?

Paul Cosentino plays “nine eccentric New Yorkers” on a rainy Manhattan day in the play directed by Thom Forgarty. Don’t read into “eccentric” as being sitcom archetypes, rather these characters are each fully-defined thanks to Cosentino’s breathtaking skill at switching from one voice to the next.

A diverse assortment of hapless beings are on display: the after-mentioned guru, a sassy pregnant Puerto Rican woman unleashing obscenities to everyone within earshot after losing her purse; a wise-guy Italian shopkeeper wrestling with his dying grandfather; a young boy innocent to the turmoil overtaking his family; a doctor who can seemingly help others but not himself and his Jewish wife who yearns for some attention; and a gay yoga instructor trying hard to keep his life together.

All live separate lives yet they are connected through their actions and the forces of fate.

Characters wrestle with their feelings while on the phone, face to face, or in Catholic confession.

“I don’t take pleasure in making you cry,” the doctor tries to make clear to his wife, who has admitted to her therapist that she’s become the Invisible Woman in her 50s.

The ailing man confides to the other patient in his hospital room about “seeing the light” and looks forward to passing to a place where “you’re always forgiven.”

During a downward facing dog stretch, the yoga instructor frets over his secret lover’s indecisiveness: “What’s the point of having free will if you don’t exercise it?”

Sometimes their lines of communication break down, but as the guru says, “the connections either help or hinder you.”

Playwright Michael Levesque builds the storylines until the crucial juncture where everyone comes together. No detail is overlooked, even a simple pair of Pez dispensers carry significance that becomes apparent as the 90-minute play unfolds. Cosentino proves to be a master of his craft as he handles every accent and nuance with flair. Excited audience members were seen after the show counting the different characters with their fingers, recalling favourite lines.

“Miracles don’t happen, they are always there,” the guru reiterates to the audience towards the end.

Bad Connections? is a miracle of theatre, a Fringe connection you must make.

 

NOW Magazine

July 2012

"A tour-de-force!"

THE TORONTOIST

By Kevin Scott

July 2012

 

The phrase tour-de-force comes to mind. Paul Cosentino effortlessly disappears into the roles of nine different New Yorkers, running the gamut from a pregnant black woman to an excitable four-year-old boy. The transformations are positively astonishing; Cosentino brings all of these characters to life with tremendous subtlety and depth. Michael Levesque’s script, written specially for Cosentino, also deserves commendation for first bombarding the audience with this group of seemingly disparate personalities before slowly tying all of the loose ends together masterfully. The show’s pacing never loses steam, even as it balances moments of uproarious humor with a vulnerability that Cosentino sometimes achieves in what are essentially conversations with himself. For any budding actors out there seeking additional education on a budget, look no further.

RHYMES WITH DRAMATURG

By Ilana Lucas

July, 2012

BAD CONNECTIONS? is a play written by Michael Levesque for Paul Cosentino, a one-man show featuring nine characters whose lives come together via various connections and conversations, culminating in a visit to a guru, in 1997 New York City (the setting, it seemed, mostly to avoid the post 9/11 feeling and to justify the presence of a payphone).  I am a terrible theatre student, because when I heard the play being described as being about “oneness,” my reaction was one of eye-rolling rather than eager nodding and snapping.  Luckily, the strength of both script and performer proved lacking in pretension, instead full of sharply-observed “dialogue” and character moments.

Cosentino adroitly fills the shoes of all characters, from a pregnant black teenager to a hospitalized Italian great-grandfather, to a 56-year-old typical Upper West Side Jewish wife-type. He snaps from one character to the next, sometimes in monologue, sometimes in dialogue, occasionally literally tumbling into his next character. His physicality is captivating and his voice work is very good. Though some characterizations verge a bit on caricature, this does serve the purpose of keeping his characters distinct, particularly later on, when they begin to come together and interact at a more and more furious pace. The script, also, makes each character interesting and sympathetic enough that we can forgive some cliché and archetype. To emphasize the connection between characters, the scenes turn on a word, going from the mouth of one character to another. It’s a nice touch, though very “writerly.”

The connections begin to come together in a satisfying way; the writer’s repetition of there being “no coincidence” seems a little like an excuse, but it’s engaging enough not to really matter. One ending vignette gave us a dramatic note that felt unearned and off-kilter with the rest of the piece; the rest of the script is so good at implying actions and connections (one of its great strengths is mostly avoiding any of the clunkiness of introductory exposition in scenes) that I was left wishing that note had been equally well-implied (as it was, in fact, with the last line before the discovery) rather than melodramatically focused on.  These are actually small quibbles with the play, which is very good and skillfully woven.

Make a connection with BAD CONNECTIONS? It’s an intriguing story, told by nine intriguing voices.

I'm a Team Member

MOONEY ON THEATRE

Stop. Look. Listen. I almost feel like I should thank Bad Connections? for reminding me to do this in my daily life. This solo show by New York playwright Michael Levesque is all about stopping and listening, to avoid the miscommunications that we all experience.

Paul Cosentino plays nine interrelated characters, from a new-age guru to a pregnant woman to a 4-year old boy, all dealing with a variety of personal issues. The play starts out as a series of monologues, but really picks up the pace in the second half when the characters interact and Cosentino is playing two-handers opposite himself.

I thought it was a really interesting choice to have one actor play all the roles, because it highlights the fact that we need to try harder to understand both sides of any conversation. The sets and sound are minimalist, just Cosentino alone onstage with a chair, so it’s all in the characters and performance to hold our attention.

Here is where I think Cosentino really delivers; he shifts personalities with excellent timing, being both funny and dramatic as the scenes dictate. I especially enjoyed one scene in which he describes what it’s like for a woman in her 50’s to feel ignored by society. In another male actor’s hands, this scene could come off as a patronizing caricature, but Cosentino is completely believable and sympathetic.

If there is one thing I could say against Bad Connections? – and it’s really a minor thing – it’s that the Fringe guide lists it as a comedy/drama. Though there are a handful of funny moments, there are many more quiet and contemplative ones, so I felt it was solidly in the “drama” category.

Stop. Look. Listen… Om…

CANADIAN CELEBRITY CENTRAL

July, 2012

Last night I attended the opening of a play called Bad Connections? It is part of this year’s Toronto Fringe Festival, and was the first show I saw in this year’s festival. Bad Connections? was written by Michael Levesque and is BRILLIANTLY performed by Paul Cosentino. It tells the tale of 9 different folks in New York City and their struggles and beliefs about different things in life.

The very first scene presents to us an East Indian Guru teaching his class (the audience, as it felt like we were truly being interacted with) and instills in us that there are no such things as miracles and coincidences. We are responsible for our own lives and everything that happens is as a result of the choices we make. I don’t fully agree with that, but alas… Almost each scene’s transition flows together nicely as a result of Paul’s movement and dialogue. These 9 characters end of being connected to each other at the end of play.

Paul truly is a multi-faceted actor. He bears the hard task of playing 9 different characters and does so crisply. He uses his tone of voice, accents, and posture to convey which character he is playing. There are no props aside from a single wooden chair, and no additions to his wardrobe. The emotions are completely real and frankly, it would be tough to find an actor of Paul’s caliber to perform such a magnificent piece.

The audience loved this play! At the end of the performance, Paul set aside a few minutes to have a short Q&A period! He gave us some insightful knowledge about his preparation for the play (which he first performed infront of an audience in 2009). He really is a great guy. I strongly recommend you go see this play. Or, if Paul performs a play in New York City (where he resides) and you happen to be there, go check him out! You will be glad you did. 

I rate Bad Connections? 8/10 but rate Paul’s acting ability a smashing 10/10.

 

THE ARTISTIC TYPE: A BLOG OF THEATER, ARTS AND CULTURE

By Sandra Carr, Orlando Sentinel correspondent

Paul Cosentino portrays nine interrelated New York characters experiencing loss, pain, understanding and forgiveness while soul-searching and seeking happiness in playwright Michael Levesque’s “Bad Connections?”

The story begins with a yoga instructor reminding his class, as well as the audience, to stop, look and listen and think about the connections made that day. The beginning sets the pace like the yin and yang, where life can be black or white and can’t exist without each other.

 

The solo show was mesmerizing as Cosentino brought these humorous and diverse roles to life on stage with only chairs and lighting changes to enhance the scene’s mood. The story lines flowed and Cosentino transitioned smoothly to each believable character throughout the production -- like having multiple personalities but in a good way.

His characters are diverse: He brilliantly portrays a gay yoga instructor, a pregnant African-American woman, a middle-aged Jewish wife to an anxious Italian man trying to let go of his past. The characters show us that we’re all connected through the good and bad times and we may have to make some changes along the way.

The production reminded me of the movie “Magnolia,” in which interweaving characters and stories come together -- except the film didn’t have masterful Cosentino. Make a connection with this gem and witness Cosentino’s hilarious, heartfelt and unforgettable show.

THE EDMONTON JOURNAL

Reviewed by: Richard Helm

Venue: Stage 10, Acacia Hall

Rating: *****

The first truly mesmerizing performance I’ve witnessed at this Fringe transports us to rainy day Manhattan and a cast of characters wounded by the ragged shear of love.

These sort of shows seem to pop up every other year at the festival — solo efforts by some adrenalin junky who conjures up a dizzying array of multiple players on the stage. Three years back, American comedienne Susan Jeremy animated a cast of 20-plus characters in P.S. 69, her one-woman tribute to life as a New York substitute teacher.

The whirlwind of theatrics is always impressive but sometimes the work can come off as a bit of a stunt. Well, the Paul Cosentino show now spellbinding Acacia Hall is no stunt. The moment-to-moment veracity that this California actor packs in every scene actually pulls you to the edge of your seat.

At first they seem a random bunch, these nine souls that Cosentino brings to life on a barren stage, largely due to their differences. The first character we meet is a guru, one of those placid beneficients so mellow and calming you might find yourself actually following along with his deep-breathing cues. The next is a pregnant Puerto Rican woman spitting fire into a subway pay phone after losing her purse. There’s a sad cardiologist, his woefully unfulfilled, woefully Jewish wife; a young Italian shopkeeper and his ailing grandfather; a child who’s seen a bit too much of the household drama; and a yoga instructor with his stuff locked down so tight and true he’d never dream of admitting that he’s absolutely miserable.

There are a lot of laughs with this self-deprecating bunch, as their various missed connections and evolving relationships weave slowly and intricately to the dramatic climax, and it’s to Cosentino’s great credit — as well as playwright Michael Levesque — that our anticipation builds unbearably for those moments when one character crashes into another.

LA THEATRE REVIEW

Reviewed by: Ashley Steed

June 25, 2010 

Rating: *****

 

Stop. Look. Listen. Sage advice from the placid, amiable guru who serves as an anchor in the interweaving lives of the 8 other characters – each played distinctly by Paul Cosentino. The guru asks the class participants to think over the connections they’ve made that day and to look deeper. From the middle-aged Jewish wife, to the young pregnant black girl, to the gay Yoga instructor – these characters remind us that we’re all connected.

Michael Levesque’s script craftily interweaves the story lines, each one beginning where the previous one leaves off, eventually building up to interaction between characters. With Thom Fogarty’s simple and genuine direction, Cosentino seamlessly flows from one character to the next. Although the script is not perfect (at times the text is contrived and the ending needs sharpening) between Cosentino’s stage presence and the humor that catches you off guard, it is a truly satisfying piece of theatre.

The show relies heavily on Cosentino’s acting prowess with subtle lighting shifts to set each scene. There are no gimmicks, highly charged dialogue or even that much action – what there is, however, is a reminder that there is no such thing as a bad connection. That if we take the time to stop, look and listen, then maybe we can get through.

 

THE PEOPLE’S THEATER

at Bravo Cucina

1319 3rd Street Promenade, Santa Monica, CA 90401

January 20, 2010 

Rating: *****

 

One actor. Ninety minutes. More than half a dozen characters. That is the frame in which Paul Cosentino works in this new, original play by Michael Levesque.

The play's opening character is a guru, which Mr. Cosentino plays in such a charming, genial manner that you find yourself obeying his instructions before remembering that he's not actually talking to you. From there, we embark on a circuitous journey made up of what initially seems to be random characters included primarily due to their differences. But these characters have more to say than even they are aware. By the end Mr. Cosentino has given us birth, death and (most importantly) relationships built on an intricate series of made and missed connections.

He has a fantastic ability to move effortlessly between characters, which is most impressive when the characters appear in dialogue together in the same scenes. Early scenes, which allow the audience to get to know the characters as they have a series of telephone conversations, feel like detours until you realize that you are constantly being fed clues to the main story. If there are moments in the dialogue that feel contrived for the sake of throwing in a few one-liners, they are nevertheless rewarding. One thing that the characters have in common is humor through self-deprecation; the laughter comes often and in unexpected places.

This is a new play, which is still being workshopped to some extent. To that end, there is a talk-back session between Mr. Cosentino, director Dana Koellner and the audience for a few minutes directly following the performance. If you can stay for this, please do as it's fascinating to learn about the process of both the writer and actor in refining a work as well as hearing from other audience members about their own impressions of specific scenes.

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