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NY1 Theater Review: "Bethany"

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"Ugly Betty" star America Ferrera returns to the off-Broadway scene in the world premiere play "Bethany." NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.

America Ferrera is starring in "Bethany," a new play that happens to put the lie to the American Dream. Was this a peculiar case of typecasting on the basis of name or mere coincidence? I have to conclude the latter because the "Ugly Betty" star is acting the heck out of Laura Marks' wonderfully provocative new work.

It takes place in 2009, when the housing bubble burst and banks went to town foreclosing on whole neighborhoods. Crystal, a desperate single mother, joins the swelling ranks of the middle-class homeless. She has a job selling cars but can't afford rent, and without an address she loses custody of her young daughter Bethany.

To get her daughter back, Crystal needs a place to live, and so she becomes a squatter in an abandoned house. Problem is she's not alone. She discovers Gary, a derelict is already living there.

At work she hopes for a hefty commission from a promising customer who turns out to be a scammer spouting self-help advice. Before long, Crystal, like so many unfortunate souls, finds herself sucked into the downward spiral of the American Dream gone sour.

Marks' black comedy is a sharp social commentary brought to vivid life under Gaye Taylor Upchurch's evocative direction.

The performances are splendid. Ken Marks stands out as the smarmy motivational speaker; Tobias Segal is excellent, ratcheting up the suspense with an unsettlingly creepy turn as Gary.

Within moments of her entrance, it's clear that talent is what won the role for America Ferrera. With her plaintive voice and brutally honest delivery she converts Crystal's moral missteps into empathetic victories and we cheer her on.

Yet another pleasant coincidence — like Crystal, The Women’s Project, which is producing "Bethany," has just moved into its new home. With such a bright start at City Center Stage II, here’s to a long and prosperous tenure for the outstanding company.

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