Review: "Irregulars" Treats Its Characters' Failings with Hilarity and Compassion


Written and directed by David Adam Gill

Presented by New Ambassadors Theatre Company at the Hudson Guild Theatre

441 W. 26th St., Manhattan, NYC

September 7-24, 2023

Marie Elèna O'Brien, John Peña Griswold, Eric Svendsen, Jonathan Peck, Mickey Pantano. Photo by Mordecai Nuccio
The titular Irregulars in the rollicking new comedy from David Adam Gill, Artistic Director of New Ambassadors Theatre Company, hail not from London's Baker Street but Brooklyn's own Carroll Gardens, but if the mysteries with which they are concerned are intrafamilial rather than criminal, they are no less important–and a lot funnier–for that. The title Irregulars literally refers the business, Roger's Irregulars, which sells irregular clothing, that is owned by one of its characters, but metaphorically encompasses Roger (Todd Butera) and his immediate family and in-laws, as well as a couple of those in that extended family's immediate orbit. Playing in repertory with the terrific Tight Five (read our review here), Irregulars turns a feelingly funny gaze on the imperfect familial and romantic relationships of imperfect people–a group to which we all belong.
Eric Svendsen, Marie Elèna O'Brien, and Todd Butera. Photo by Mordecai Nuccio
Irregulars takes place on the fifth anniversary of the death of Christopher (Eric Svendsen) and Margie's (Marie Elèna O'Brien) father, and as the play begins, Christopher and Roger, who is married to Margie, are waiting for Margie to arrive with food and wine as part of their plans to mark that anniversary. Margie and Christopher's mother, 80-year-old Loubee (Mickey Pantano), whose relationship with her husband was often less than placid, is still asleep elsewhere in the family's brownstone, perhaps related to her recently increased White Claw consumption and, in Roger's estimation, depression. Margie, though, who is no stranger to a drink herself, comes home without the food or most of the wine but with a story of a streetside altercation with someone who had initially asked her for help with some cats. Later, the group is joined by Stephen (Jonathan Peck at select performances, including the one which we attended; and Saadiq Vaughan at select performances), everyone's favorite, who is Christopher's partner and arrives with a young man named Jaqob-with-a-Q (John Peña Griswold) in tow. Over the course of this hilariously fractious gathering, secrets come out, tempers flare, ashes are wrangled over, and pretty much everyone is forced to take a hard look at themselves.
John Peña Griswold and Mickey Pantano. Photo by Mordecai Nuccio
Loubee is the gravitational center of these goings-on, an Italian matriarch with a tough exterior and at least one unique method of showing her displeasure with someone. Roger and Margie are struggling with their adult daughter's moving to Oregon, Christopher with both his career as an agent and his getting older, and Stephen with his acting career, while Jaqob is feeling the impact of the problems still disproportionately faced by many young queer people. Roger's nigh unshakeable decency also means that he doesn't stand up for himself as much as perhaps he should, particularly given the strong personalities of the family into which he has married. Loubee, in other words, may have one eye on the afterlife, but she also still has some work to do.
Marie Elèna O'Brien, John Peña Griswold, Jonathan Peck, Eric Svendsen. Photo by Mordecai Nuccio
Irregulars delves into the ways in which we show and don't show love and respect for those who matter the most to us, and how we let things like insecurity, embarrassment, and the plain old passage of time affect those relationships; and it does so with great pacing and comedic flair. The cast is fantastic, from Svendsen's self-protectively arch Christopher to O'Brien's blustery Margie. Peck and Butera, in distinct ways, keep the nice guys interesting, while Peña Griswold lends Jaqob a kind of flirty puppy abjection that still has enough depth so that his finding an unexpected ally in Pantano's equally if differently layered Loubee rings effortlessly true. The play reminds us that no one is perfect, but if you're looking for a great comedy, it's hard to find fault with Irregulars.

-John R. Ziegler and Leah Richards


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