Ya gotta have a gimmick — and, in these days of shows such as The Rocky Horror Show and last season's Lifegame, the gimmick is audience participation. As such, a show brought back from a year ago is showing surprising resiliency Off Broadway. Avery Crozier's broad comedy, Eat the Runt, which started previews at the American Place Theatre May 25 and opened to mixed reviews June 5, has been surviving the traditional New York summer doldrums and reaches its 100th performance Aug. 19. To celebrate, according to production spokesperson Patt Dale after that performance, the cast will indulge in a cake with — what else? — "Eat The Cake" scripted on it.
Mefisto Theatre Company staged Runt at Altered Stages in June 2000. The current staging is produced by Matthew vonWaaden, Weil Richmond and Matthew Richmond. VonWaaden directs (though Peter Hawkins directed at Altered Stages).
The play is fully scripted, with the same group of actors every night. However, the audience gets to choose which actor plays which role. In the original version, a couple of members of the audience were asked to draw balls from two buckets, one with character names, the other with actor names. This time, instead of going for something so random, all the audience members have remote control gadgets by which they can vote for who plays who.
Author Crozier revised the script, with the director and the company adding a "Casting Director" who helps "guide the audience and the actors through the selection of the cast" in the early part of the show. Video screens and a "Runt Score Board" show the tallies, which could have 40,320 possible results. A question-and-answer session with cast members, producers and other creatives is held after each performance.
As for the play itself, it concerns various odd and eccentric applicants for a museum job as grants manager. The characters are written without specific references to race, sex or ethnicity. For tickets and information on Eat the Runt at the American Place Theatre, 111 West 46 St., call (212) 239-6200.
— By David Lefkowitz