Monday, Jul 28, 2014 12:13 am est

“The Man Under” brings macabre to Off-Broadway stage

Posted on February 7, 2013 | by Alexander Tsebelis

The tagline for the off-Broadway production “The Man Under” at 59E59 Theater reads, “An urban love story about four people in New York City who struggle with what they want and how to express it.” It sounds like the description of a romantic comedy, which, at first, doesn’t seem far off. Two roommates and their neighbor hang out in the simulacrum of a New York City apartment, complete with The Beatles posters, an IKEA love seat and a guitar amp with a Sleigh Bells sticker.

Then the audience learns what the group wants and starts to understand how they express it. Jeff (portrayed by playwright Paul Bomba) is struggling with what he calls “suicidal impulses.” When a subway passes by, “the impulse is to jump [onto the tracks], but the thought is to grab onto a pipe.” He meets a girl who seems to be experiencing the same feeling, and the two share a moment reminiscent of the standard, random encounter leading to romance — with a twist.

For the next half an hour, one believes that the girl, Lisa (Briana Pozner) is your average Manic Pixie Dream Girl, with slightly more morbid interests. As the play continues, that belief is shattered.  Lisa’s interests are significantly more disturbing and include lying under passing trains. We learn that Lisa is a dead ringer for Jeff’s fiancé, whom he lost to cancer. Symbolically, she’s death incarnate, a Freudian zombie with a predatory agenda. Lisa’s proclamation to Jeff, “I’m yours now,” is an extremely frightening moment.

Jeff and Lisa’s macabre romance is contrasted to the relationship between his roommate, Martin (Curran Connor), and their neighbor, Jennifer (Veronique Ory). The two watch Yankees’ games together while Jeff and Lisa run around, hiding in ditches to avoid getting decapitated and have sex in dark, graffiti-filled subway tunnels. However, Martin and Jennifer do little more than illuminate the difference between romance at its most dangerous and destructive and a more normal courtship process. Their relationship functions more as a distraction than as a poignant counterpoint to Jeff and Lisa’s.

Bomba’s script and Benjamin Kamine’s direction are both competent, but they do little to alleviate the audience’s discomfort with the material, which may be the point. That point is moot, however, since Jeff’s only interests seem to be his suicidal thoughts, and that leaves very little to root for. “The Man Under” elicits little other than distaste and discomfort. And, after all that, you have to ride the subway home.

“The Man Under” is playing now through Feb. 17 at 59E59 Theater C, 59 E. 59th St. 

A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, Feb. 7 print edition. Alexander Tsebelis is a contributing writer. Email him at


profile portrait
Felipe De La Hoz

Multimedia Editor | Felipe De La Hoz is a Colombian national studying journalism at the College of Arts and Sciences. Having been born in Colombia and raised in the United States, Mexico and Brazil, Felipe is a trilingual travel aficionado and enjoys working in varied and difficult environments. Apart from his photography, Felipe enjoys investigative reporting and interviews, interviewing the likes of Colombian ex-M-19 guerrilla fighters and controversial politician Jimmy McMillan. He has covered everything from governmental conferences to full-blown riots, as well as portraiture shoots and dining photography. Having worked under Brazilian photojournalists for Reuters and AFP, Felipe hopes to one day work on demanding journalistic projects and contribute to the global news cycle.

Ann Schmidt

News Editor | Ann is a liberal studies sophomore who lived in Florence during her freshman year. She plans on double-majoring in journalism and political science and is always busy. She is constantly making lists and she loves to laugh.


Daniel Yeom

Daniel started at the Features desk of WSN last Spring, writing restaurant reviews whilst indulging on free food and consequently getting fat. Last Fall, he was the dining editor, and he this semester he is senior editor. Daniel is in Gallatin (living the dream) studying Food & Travel Narratives, incorporating aspects of Food Studies, Journalism, and Media, Culture, and Communication. He loves food more than life itself.

Hannah Luu

Deputy Multimedia Editor | Hannah Luu is a ridiculously great Deputy Multimedia Editor. She is a sophomore from Northern California. If you think Northern California means San Francisco you might need to closely examine a map. She is passionate about NPR and being half Asian.

  • How to join:

    The Washington Square News holds open weekly budget meetings at its office located at 838 Broadway every Sunday. All are welcome to attend, no matter your background in journalism, writing, or reporting. Specific times for meetings by desk are listed below. If you wish to talk to an editor before you attend, feel free to check out the Staff page.

    5 P.M. 6 P.M. 6 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 7 P.M.

    Applying for an editor position: Applications for editor positions during the fall or spring semesters are available twice each academic year and can be found here when posted. Applications for the Fall 2012 semester are closed, but check back for Spring 2013. Those who wish to apply are urged to publish pieces in the newspaper and contact current editors for shadowing.

    History of the Washington Square News:

    The Washington Square News is the official daily student newspaper of New York University and serves the NYU, Greenwich Village, and East Village communities. Founded as an independent newspaper in 1973, the WSN allows its undergraduate writers and photographers to cover campus and city news and continues to grow its strong body of award-winning journalists and photographers.

  • The WSN has a circulation of about 60,000 and can be found in over a hundred purple bins distributed throughout campus. It is published Monday through Thursday during the fall and spring semesters and online on Friday, with additional special issues published in the summer. The newspaper recently revamped its website during the Fall 2012 semester.

    Like few campus newspapers in the country, the paper is editorially and financially independent from the university and is solely responsible for selling advertisements to fund its production. The WSN, including its senior staff, is run solely by current undergraduate students and the business-division is largely student-operated as well.

    A Board of Directors comprised of alumni, NYU professors and working news media professionals serves as advisors to the paper. Board members have no control in the WSN's editorial policy or newsroom operations. Alumni of the newspaper are established and leading journalists in such news organizations as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, NBC news, ABC news, Fox News, and USA Today.