Christopher Daftsios playwriting debut will blow your boots off

Joy Donze and Christopher Daftsios in the world premiere of "Lily" at the New Jersey Repertory Theater in Long Branch. Written by Daftsios, the revenge play centers on an aging, over-sexed country singer who meets his match during a post-performance encounter.(PHOTO: Andrea Phox)
Joy Donze and Christopher Daftsios in the world premiere of “Lily” at the New Jersey Repertory Theater in Long Branch. Written by Daftsios, the revenge play centers on an aging, over-sexed country singer who meets his match during a post-performance encounter.(PHOTO: Andrea Phox)

Can one sorry and sordid aging country music superstar change his tune when confronted one post-show night by a determined young woman who seeks revenge for past wrongs?

You bet he can!

He has no choice in this world premiere of “Lily” at the New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch playing through Nov. 24.

It’s the first full-length play written by Christopher Daftsios, a NJ Rep regular who also plays the alcoholic singer Toby Crenshaw. The drama is so full of unexpected twists and turns it caused the audience to gasp at times.

Daftsios has been quoted saying he never thought the play would be produced so he wrote one that he would like to see, without limitations, that hits you in the gut and leaves you changed. It’s one of the best shows I’ve seen on the NJ Rep stage. It’s fascinating, clever, freewheeling and unpredictable.

It might possibly be the debut work of a hot new playwright. Perhaps an heir to Sam Shepard, but with more laughs.

(Already looking for ward to Daftsios’ next work here in 2020: “Circus Dreams,” another comic-drama, it’s set in Minnesota and centers on a closeted middle-aged gay man trying to stay in the closet but outed in a most unusual way.)

Joy Donze and Adam von Pier (PHOTO: Andrea Phox)
Joy Donze and Adam von Pier (PHOTO: Andrea Phox)

Tommy (Adam von Pier making his stage debut), the head of security, vets the groupies who get to “meet” Toby after his shows and makes sure they all are at least 18 years old, pretty and eager to please. On this particular night a young, long-haired blonde named Haley (Joy Donze) is first in line and so self-sure and intriguing that Toby tells Tommy to send the others home.

He comes to regret that decision, big time. Haley is on a mission to ruin Toby’s career and life just like he has ruined so many others himself.

From left, Christopher Daftsios, Adam von Pier, Tait Ruppert. (PHOTO: Andrea Phox)
From left, Christopher Daftsios, Adam von Pier, Tait Ruppert. (PHOTO: Andrea Phox)

We see much more of Toby’s other enabler and confidant of 25 years – manager Sam (Tait Ruppert) – in the second act. Lily also dominates that act. We never see her, but her name is written in large letters on the mirror in Toby’s dressing room.

To reveal more would spoil the show. But, I must say, there is an incredibly sweet and unexpected scene between Tommy and Haley. She shows an interest in the man most people mistake for a dumb bouncer. He rewards her kindness in such a touching, unexpected way and excellent director Sarah Norris gives him the time to do so. The entire cast is superb. Not one complaint.

Jessica Parks’ scene design makes the tiny stage look expansive, not an easy thing to do here. Jill Nagle’s lighting augments it well.

Because of the adult themes, including a graphic sex scene, and profanity, no one age 17 and younger will be admitted.

Performances Thursday through Sundays, through Nov. 24. New Jersey Repertory Company, 179 Broadway, Long Branch. Tickets $55. Call 732-229-3166 or visit http://www.njrep.org.

Christopher Daftsios and Joy Donze. (PHOTO: Andrea Phox)
Christopher Daftsios and Joy Donze. (PHOTO: Andrea Phox)

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