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Review of "Ants" at New Jersey Repertory Company

By Gary Wien


(LONG BRANCH, NJ) -- As a guy married to someone in academia, I never imagined the concept of a college professor sleeping with a student very funny; yet, there I was last Saturday night laughing -- quite often -- during the world premiere of "Ants" by Saviana Stanescu at New Jersey Repertory Theatre. This quirky comedy takes a look inside the world of ants, offspring, and how our two species are more alike than you'd think.

The play revolves around Kara and Mia, two sisters who have emigrated from Eastern Europe to a college town in America. Mia is a doctoral student currently working on earning her PhD in biochemistry. As the play opens, we see her practicing the speech she hopes to give someday when she wins the Nobel Prize for her work with ants. Shortly thereafter, Kara returns home. She tells her sister that she's just been fired from her job at the factory -- a place where she toiled for years, struggling to make payments on everything from the mortgage to her sister's education. As the two are knee deep in bills, Kara tells Mia it's her turn to be the breadwinner. Adding to the equation is the news that Kara is pregnant.

"I'm so tired of pushing toward the American Dream, I'd rather have my own little nightmare," says Kara.

As much as Mia loves ants, her sister despises them. She isn't even sure if she wants to keep the baby, but Mia does. She constantly draws parallels between the ant world and humans, and drives Kara nuts with her talk -- much of which does sink in. Mia says Kara is a "queen" now and promises to find a way to earn money. While doing so, she comes up with a hilarious outreach program to prevent Kara from getting an abortion. Meanwhile, Kara spends most of her time being sick or reading her fortune from tarot cards.

The pregnancy lights a fire under Mia to earn the fellowship she's been after, which would solve their economic dilemma. Meanwhile her advisor/professor teeters on sexual harassment charges with playful slaps of her butt and sexual innuendo remarks. Mia devises a plan to utilize these advances to blackmail her advisor while simultaneously changing the project she's working on with her instructor to the one she really wants -- radically altering nature by converting worker ants into queens -- a project she believes will ultimately lead to the Nobel Prize for her.

I'm someone that wouldn't normally find the subject of ants very interesting, but I was captivated by the project and the larger issue of nature versus nurture. Are the lives of ants really pre-determined based on their social class? Are the lives of humans? To really understand the implications of her project, Mia decides she must learn more about mating itself. With flyers around campus, she offers herself up to anyone who wishes to take part. One person responds, and the night changes Mia's life in more ways than one.

Throughout the play, Mia lives her life as one would imagine a scientist to. She feels she can control her environment and change real-life situations as easy as she does in the lab. While nice in practice, she soon learns that life doesn't work that way.

This highly enjoyable play stars Maria Silverman as Mia; Carol Todd as Kara; and Michael Samuel Kaplan as Adam Kohn, the professor. Jeff Zinn directs. "Ants" runs at New Jersey Repertory Theatre (179 Broadway, Long Branch, NJ) through March 10.


Photo: Maria Silverman and Michael Samuel Kaplan by SuzAnne Barabas



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Event calendar
Saturday, Nov 17, 2018


MUSIC

THE GAY BLADES @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

HERMAN'S HERMITS STARRING PETER NOONE & THE BUCKINGHAMS @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 8:00pm

Nelson Riveros Trio: “The Latin Side of Wes Montgomery” @ Englewood Public Library, Englewood - 7:00pm

Hawaiian Music and Hula @ 1867 Sanctuary at Ewing, Ewing - 8:00pm

Pop 2000 Tour @ iPlay America, Freehold - 7:00pm

THE MACHINE PERFORMS PINK FLOYD @ The Strand Theater, Lakewood - 8:00pm

THE FAB FAUX A HARD DAY'S NIGHT AND REVOLVER IN THEIR ENTIRETIES @ State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick - 8:00pm

Todd Barry at SOPAC @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm

Swamp Boogie Trio @ Lizzie Rose Music Room, Tuckerton - 7:30pm







THEATRE

Annie @ Broad Street United Methodist Church, Burlington - 8:00pm

An Actor's Carol @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 3:00pm and 7:30pm

Annie @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Apples In Winter @ Centenary Stage Company - Kutz Theater of the Lackland Center, Hackettstown - 8:00pm

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat @ The Levoy Theatre, Millville - 8:00pm

Billy Bishop Goes to War @ Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum, Morristown - 2:00pm

Kiss Me Kate @ Broadway Theatre of Pitman, Pitman - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Phoenix Productions Presents: The Hunchback of Notre Dame @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 8:00pm

Enchanted April @ The Summit Playhouse, Summit - 8:00pm

Heathers, The Musical High School Edition @ Pebble Players, Oakes Center, Summit - 7:30pm

Junie B. Jones The Musical at Black Box PAC @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 11:00am

Into the Woods @ Studio Playhouse Upper Montclair, Upper Montclair - 8:00pm

The Drowsy Chaperone @ Lauren K. Woods Theatre at Monmouth University, West Long Branch - 8:00pm


COMEDY

Todd Barry at SOPAC @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm


DANCE

BALLET FOLKLORICO DE MEXICO @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 8:00pm


KIDS

ROALD DAHL’S WILLY WONKA JR. @ Ridgewood Ave School Theater, Glen Ridge - 1:00pm and 7:00pm


LECTURE

Mainebiz Health Care Forum @ Mainebiz Health Care Forum, Newyork - 8:00pm

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