Susan Granger’s review of “Pete Rex” (59E59 Theatre – Off-Broadway)
Opening with a video projection of a primitive homo sapiens battling a dinosaur, this inventive play explores man’s inner feelings, showing how our species hasn’t progressed much over the eons.
Surrounded by empty beer cans, thirtysomething slacker Pete (Greg Carere) lives in his own man-cave in West Kensington, PA, watching football marathons of “Madden 07” on his Xbox and eating Little Debbie Zebra Cakes. He’s depressed because his girl-friend Julie (Rose Sowa) is moving to New York City, and he’s simply not ready to grow up and join her.
Suddenly, Julie bursts in, informing Pete and his soon-to-be-devoured buddy Bo (Simon Winheld) that dinosaurs have invaded their town. At first, they don’t believe her but, when her assertion is confirmed on TV, Pete, who once wanted to be a paleontologist, claims to be an expert, referring to Dr. Adam Grant and “Jurassic Park.”
The authentic presence of these giant, primal reptiles is established by eerie shadows created by lighting designer Remy M. Leelike and thumping generated by sound designer Megan Culley.
The next thing you know, Julie and Pete have found an enormous egg and are incubating it under the couch. When it hatches, it turns out to be a caustic, anthropomorphic Tyrannosaurus Rex who – in a distinctly British accent – calls himself Nero (Simon Winheld) and enjoys playing prehistoric Trivial Pursuit before he consumes his next meal.
“I am a huge fan,” Pete gushes, “You’re like the coolest thing that ever lived.”
Eventually, it becomes obvious that Nero is a sophomoric projection of a toy T-Rex that angst-riddled Pete once considered his protector against the evil forces of the adult world.
“We’re together again, just like old times,“ Nero tells him.
Written by Alexander V. Thompson and directed by Brad Raimondo, it’s an existential, absurdist comedy, a Dreamscape Theatre NYC premiere that provides plenty of surprises, becoming an intriguing, if immature diversion.
“Pete Rex” plays at 59E59 Theater through March 3.