Review: Press Play on "Blockbuster Guy" (and Be Kind—Rewind!)

Blockbuster Guy

Written and performed by Mark Levy

Directed by Kristen Keim

Presented at UNDER St. Marks

94 St. Marks Place, Manhattan, NYC

February 21st at 5:30 pm; February 28th at 8:50pm; March 1st at 3:30pm; March 4th at 10:30pm; March 7th at 2:10pm (click here for tickets)

Mark Levy. Photo by Arin Sang-urai
Right at the start of Mark Levy's solo show Blockbuster Guy, he announces that he always has been and always will be a movie nerd. Blockbuster Guy offers a humorous paean not only to how film can shape our lives but also to finding a sense of discovery and even community in the unlikely location of a now-defunct corporate retail chain. The show arrives in revised form at the 2020 annual FRIGID Festival after a 2019 run at SOLOCOM at the PIT Loft. Levy is no stranger to the festival, with All is Fine in Sunny Florida! (2016), Lenny Bruce is Not Afraid (2018), and CC: You in Hell! (2019; reviewed by us here) on his FRIGID resumé, and Blockbuster Guy sees him collaborating for a fifth time with director Kristen Keim, who also directed Lenny Bruce and with whom he won an award for ...Waiting at the 2017 Planet Connections Theatre Festivity.

At one point, relatively early in the show, Levy asks the audience members to close their eyes for what he half-jokingly refers to as a "guided meditation" that leads to his younger self's happy place: Blockbuster Video. While that might sound like a potential punchline, Levy is sincere is his affection for its vanished aisles. He reveals how his love of movies, developed at an extremely young age, offered an escape from bullying; but his burgeoning cinephilia is equally tied up with memories of a loving family life. Mingled with stories of customers and coworkers from his time as a Blockbuster employee in a small college town in Florida, where he acquired the inescapable sobriquet that gives the show its title, are anecdotes of films that impacted him: Scream, for example, acting as a sort of initiation or The Producers introducing him to an actor who would eventually help to fuel his love of theater.

Levy is an entertaining and compelling storyteller, not infrequently punctuating stories with an ironic laugh, and the show often has the feel of a rousing conversation with a friend who also enthusiastically loves pop culture, parts of which are officially designated Tangents. Images and video are well integrated, including a Blockbuster employee training tape that plays as background before the show and pops up again later with an oddly sexist segment involving a customer who should perhaps find a new husband.

While Blockbuster Guy is funny throughout, it also possesses a touch of melancholic nostalgia for what can never be recreated: even before Blockbuster's demise, Levy finds that working in another Blockbuster store lacks the same "weird energy" as the store in small-town Florida. However, its ultimate message comes from something like the positive inverse of this unrepeatability of circumstance: just like you don't need to be embarrassed to love bad movies, it's ok to get joy from whatever is the right thing for you at the right time—even if that is working retail.

-John R. Ziegler (a few favorite movies: The Nightmare Before Christmas, The City of Lost Children, and Aliens) and Leah Richards (a few favorite movies: Oldboy, Clue, and Night of the Living Dead

FRIGID 2020 Reviews on Thinking Theater NYC
Laser Comedy Show
Mother Leeds
And the Rope Still Tugging Her Feet
A Southern Fairytale

FRIGID 2020 listings on Thinking Theater NYC
The 500 List
Artaud Marat
Beneath the Bikini
Cemetery Golf
Closed Circuit
Finding Fellini
Jaxx & Lolo: A Friendship Story
Magnetic Dragons
Nancy Drewinsky and the Search for the Missing Letter
A Southern Fairytale
The Stands
Story Time with Joey Rinaldi
This Feeling


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