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    Peter and Vandy

    Stage two

    "Peter and Vandy," once an acclaimed off-off-Broadway play about a mixed-up romance and break-up, suffers in its new incarnation as a film.


    Poor Jay DiPietro! In 2002, he wrote, directed and starred in an 85 minute off-off-off Broadway play — a two-hander called "Peter and Vandy" — about the ins and outs of love and living together, featuring the eponymous title characters and received a slew of very good reviews. I never saw his play, but I did find a rave from my colleague David Finkle online which ended, "Put Jay DiPietro at the top of your list of playwright-director-actors to watch for in the future, and put "Peter and Vandy" somewhere near the top of the list of plays to catch right now."

    Written and directed by: Jay DiPietro.
    Cast: Jason Ritter, Jess Weixler, Jesse L. Martin, Tracie Thoms, Noah Bean, Bruce Altman, Rose DiPietro, Dana Eskelson.
    Cinematography: Frank G. DeMarco.
    Edited by: Geoffrey Richman.
    Music by: Jason Lifton.

    Related links: Official site
    Village East
    187 2nd Ave at 12th St.


      Interview: Jay DiPietro
    First-time writer-director Jay DiPietro talks about his play-turned-film, "Peter and Vandy."

    So why the opening pejorative adjective? The "right now" just alluded to was seven years ago and Google though I may, I could find nothing about DiPietro in the ensuing years — no new plays mentioned at all. However, the film version of "P&V" was just released, although it was first seen at Sundance in January along with it's higher-profile doppleganger, "500 Days of Summer." How unfortunate for — here comes that pejorative again — poor DiPietro, that both "P&V" and "500 Days" have similar themes as well as styles.

    They both belong to that increasingly popular, if annoying, cinematic trope known as reverse chronology — which includes such films as Harold Pinter's "Betrayal" (which also began life on the stage), Christopher Nolan's "Memento" and Atom Egoyan's "The Sweet Hereafter." Two films in the same festival about the breakdown (or up) of a relationship told the same reverse way — what are the odds? And even though "P&V" was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize and has somewhat stronger indie cred than its fraternal twin, "500 Days," it's the latter that got 165 mostly favorable reviews on IMDB, while "P&V" has only 9 somewhat mixed to negative critiques on the same site.

    Peter and Vandy  
    And here comes number 10! The film is so convoluted that although I saw it on DVD (sordid little truth, critics often get to watch a film on DVD for a variety of reasons), even after playing it through four times, I'm still not sure what the story is. DiPietro seems to state the rather obvious notion that stuff that seems cute when you first meet someone and want to get it on, often becomes the very thing that makes you hate them later on. OK, maybe he was aiming for truth over style, so while there aren't many, if any, memorable lines, there are lots of familiar situations. But he's fragmented them so in his reversatron machine, that it took me at least two or three viewings to realize what they were or what I think they were. So pity the poor audience member in the theater trying to make heads or tails out of his fractured film in a single viewing.

      Peter and Vandy
    As for the actors, Jason (son of John) Ritter is Peter and Jess Weixler is Vandy. They are very attractive young actors — Ritter's looks change constantly depending on the camera angle, so I kept seeing Howard Keel, James DeFranco, Johnny Depp and Jason's late dad as my mind wandered in and out of the fragmented story. Weixler looks like several blondes from TV, none of whose names I can remember. As for their characters, he seemed very earnest, she seemed very closed off, and that's pretty much how they played it. There are several other attractive actors who also fight a lot. Needless to say, Peter and Vandy don't end up together — at least I think they don't. Here's a thought ... try reading this review from the last paragraph to the first or better yet, read every other graph and then go back and read the missing ones — that ought to put you in the right mood for "Peter and Vandy."

    OCTOBER 12, 2009

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