California-born NYC-based writer and performer Anthony Misiano (TV’s Awkwafina is Nora from Queens) takes a revealing look back at his relentlessly tortured childhood and dysfunctional family in the Off-Off-Broadway world-premiere production of his original one-man dramedy I Squeezed Really Hard. Directed by Jacob Titus and presented at wild project in association with The Aviary, Misiano, a bold and masterful storyteller, delivers a thoroughly enthralling Broadway-quality performance filled with all the shocks, pain, and dark laughs of his own true story of survival and the uplifting message of the salvation he ultimately found in the theater. And in parts of the female anatomy.
Misiano moves around the black-box space, furnished with just a carpet, a chair, and a stool, as he recounts brutally honest memories that go from bad to inconceivably worse in direct address to the audience, mimics the personalities and actions of his parents and his younger self with character-defining acuity, and finds acerbic humor in the abusive relationships and struggles he endured, all relayed with a rapid-fire energy that keeps us laughing out loud while simultaneously shaking our heads and wiping our eyes. It’s a story so emotionally raw and brave, so deeply personal and affecting, and so wildly entertaining and funny, that it takes an outstanding talent like Misiano to interweave all the elements to seamless perfection, and to keep our rapt attention as we root for a happy ending.
As impressive as Misiano’s writing and performance are, accentuated by Annie Garrett-Larsen’s dramatic lighting and subtly telling costumes by Darcy Kane, his message of staying alive and finding camaraderie in a community that focuses on the creative rather than the destructive tendencies of humankind resonates profoundly, especially at a time when theaters are just reopening after the extended pandemic shutdown. It’s great to be back live and in-person for such a life-affirming show; Misiano is clearly meant to be here.
Running Time: Approximately one hour and 50 minutes, including a fifteen-minute intermission.
I Squeezed Really Hard plays through Sunday, September 26, at wild project, 195 E. 3rd Street, NYC. For tickets, priced at $25, go online. Be advised that all audience members must show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination and photo ID upon entry, and will be required to wear masks at all times within the theater.