Play DC: I Wanna Fucking Tear You Apart @ Studio Theatre
BYT at large | Feb 7, 2017 | 2:30PM |

By Tristan Lejeune

This will sound like a backhanded compliment, but I admire I Wanna Fucking Tear You Apart’s lack of ambition.

A number of plays in the D.C.-area recently have tried to punch too far above their weight, but this new one-act, which runs until the 19th at Studio Theatre, doesn’t bite off even a dollop more than it can chew. It tells a small story, and it tells it cleanly. It may be welterweight, but it’s scrappy for its class.

Roommates Samantha (Nicole Spiezio) and Leo (Tommy Heleringer) have been best friends since college. Now in their 30s, they share a nest of a New York apartment where they kvetch, drink, dance, veg out, and carp about anyone or anything who isn’t them. As the show repeatedly states, he’s a “gay guy” and she’s a “fat girl” — together, they make Team FatGay (more on that later) — and they’re both struggling writers.

But the roots of codependence run deep here, and the entrance of a new (skinny, well-dressed) work friend of Leo’s named Chloe threatens to, well, fucking tear them apart.

Any show that takes its title from a She Wants Revenge song — and oh yeah they play it — clearly has its eye on popular culture. Sam and Leo watch a lot of bad TV and listen to a lot of good music; particularly lively and timely is the late-night dance to a remix of “Bad Romance.” As writers, you might expect a little more literary small talk, however.

Spiezio, who has great hair, and Heleringer, who has beautiful eyes, find a strong chemistry. I had no trouble believing these two have been friends for a dog’s age, though I do wish writer/director Morgan Gould’s dialogue was a little funnier. Her openly autobiographical script is better at the fight scenes than the make-nice scenes. More than once I was reminded of that bit in Annie Hall where Woody Allen writes a play where he gets to rehash a real-life argument to his advantage.

Also, I wish there wasn’t quite so much calling Sam “fat.” We get it: she’s a big girl. But I don’t see being overweight in 2017 (to say nothing of being gay in New York City) as being as isolating as Gould does. If Leo and Sam are their own Island of Misfit Toys, it’s self-imposed.

And that comes through, too. Gould has followed the old adage to write what she knows, so, with the exception of a difficult-to-swallow late-story twist, IWFTYA feels true to life.

Hats off to set design from Luciana Stecconi: The place looks but exactly like the kind of home filled with stuff left over from college. Love the beat-up bar stools, love the tiny, never-used oven, love the piles of well-chosen props. It’s a feast for the eye and then some: whenever the action is slow, you can look over Sam and Leo’s books, lamps and K-cup selection. Such richness, however, invites nitpicking, so here goes: The plastic and rubber of a Dustbuster would not likely survive a winter on a New York radiator, let alone two. And PlayStation controllers are not used to play Mario games. Still, it is fun watching a lava lamp plume and unfurl over the “months” of the story.

Ivania Stack’s costumes and lights and sound from Andrew Cissna and Justin Schmitz, respectively, are all to be commended.

Everything, indeed, is just the right size: the story arc, the love seat, the epilogue. They are small but effective. So stop calling them fat.

I Wanna Fucking Tear You Apart runs at the Studio Theatre through February 19.