'The Antelope Party' review: Friendship is magic, with exceptions

Eric John Meyer’s “The Antelope Party,” a presentation by the Dutch Kills Theater Company which had its recent New York premiere at the ...


Eric John Meyer’s “The Antelope Party,” a presentation by the Dutch Kills Theater Company which had its recent New York premiere at the Wild Project, uses a classic cinematic thriller structure to explore the potential dangers of the real world of fantastic bands wish fulfillment.

But is the kind of evil that plagues the Rust Belt Bronies Meet Up group for adult fans of “My Little Pony” unique, or can it happen to any collective?

These bronies and pegasisters – as adult fans of the franchise are known – regularly reunite with the hushed secret of political subversives in the West Pennsylvania home of their brilliant host, Ben (Edward Mawere), in the 2010s. Those who answered Ben’s online call for role-playing include Maggie (Lindsley Howard), a young woman who lives with her protective father; the distant 20 or 30 years Doug (Quinn Franzen) and Rachel (Caitlin Morris); and Shawn (Will Dagger), who joined him after his AMFE (After My First Episode) reveal moment.

One night, Maggie takes a wrong step. Dressed in a full Pony outfit, something party members usually avoid harassment, she is picked up by members of a Neighborhood Watch as she walks to Ben’s apartment. That same night, Jean (appropriately baffled Anna Ishida) shows up at Ben’s house, but soon realizes that she’s mistaken the group for one another – true 9/11 truths like herself – and is quickly shown. These incidents put the Rust Belt Bronies in a paranoid spiral, which escalates when they discover that the Neighborhood Watch is in fact a group called the Antelope Party, whose mission is to rid the country of homelessness. street children and other “wild dogs”. . “

Change is a bit of a bait and switch: instead of examining the intricacies of the ‘My Little Pony’ fandom, ‘The Antelope Party’ has more in common with socio-political films like ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’, in which suspicion about the mysterious “stranger” stirs fears among a particular group of people. Meyer explores these dynamics and how people acquire power in social groups: is it bestowed, won by force, or is it more unpredictable?

The ensemble members are convincing in their portrayal of vulnerability. Shawn, Dagger’s weakling, is a believable beta male whose desperation for social status drives him to dark places, and Howard’s Maggie is perfect as an energetic type whose “daddy’s girl” veil hides a grim reality. . The charismatic Mawere is intensely watchable as Ben, an eager to please host.

In her casting direction, Jess Chayes delves into the characters’ caution in social settings by cleverly avoiding staging the action when none is required, though the play never feels slow. And Yu-Hsuan Chen’s clever one-room ensemble – the walls fold back to create spaces outside of the group’s meeting place – underlines their precarious hold on this made-up world.

As in his work on WP Theater’s “Our dear dead drug lord, “Another pessimistic story of a group’s descent into chaos, Chen shows an innate understanding of the intimacy of small spaces, and how scattered clutter equates to an intensely personal ecosystem. Here, the pillows. Ben’s fluffy neon and “My Little Pony” blankets are props that can be quickly hidden away if a judging stranger arrives.

By taking various precautions – part childish desire to protect their cool little club, part survival response to real danger – the group believes itself impervious to outside forces. But “The Antelope Party” creates a clever little wake-up call for them, and for anyone who shares their belief that there is security in numbers.

The antelope festival
Until November 21 at the Wild Project, Manhattan; theantilope.party, Duration: 2 hours.

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