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Review: ‘Martin Denton, Martin Denton,’ Off Off Broadway Hagiography


Chris Harcum and Marisol Rosa-Shapiro in “Martin Denton, Martin Denton.”

Cilla Villanueva

“Martin Denton, Martin Denton” is about someone so great, they had to name him twice. Maybe that is the not-so-subtle message telegraphed by Chris Harcum’s hagiographical play about a certain denizen of the New York theater scene.

“Martin Denton, Martin Denton” recounts the life and times of its titular subject, a devoted theatergoer who funneled his passion into NYTheatre.com. The site reviewed thousands of Off and Off Off Broadway shows between 1997 and 2016; Mr. Denton also published hundreds of plays and produced almost as many podcasts. He currently focuses on Indie Theater Now, which was begun in 2011.

Mr. Harcum (“Green”) wrote and plays Mr. Denton like a selfless enthusiast and champion of the city’s smaller, less-heralded stages. This devotion appears to have left no time for outside interests such as romance, and throughout the show Mr. Denton’s sidekick, co-conspirator and roommate remains his widowed mother, Rochelle (Marisol Rosa-Shapiro).

Except for a few meta asides, the play, directed by Aimee Todoroff, is chronological, taking us from Mr. Denton’s childhood in Washington to his years in New York (he now lives in New Jersey), and tracking the growth of NYTheatre.

At first, the Dentons are eager naïfs: “Mother, have you heard of this thing called Off Off Broadway?” Mr. Denton asks. They quickly embrace that world, especially the annual Fringe Festival.

Some anecdotes draw a smile, as when the dynamic duo realize they can see shows for free, or when Mr. Denton turns down seeing “a three-hour musical about people peeing” at the Fringe. (He does eventually catch up with “Urinetown.”)

Other times, Mr. Denton’s ecumenical attitude feels disingenuous. “Who are you to judge?” he says of critics. This is a bit rich considering that Mr. Denton also boasts of writing and publishing hundreds of theater reviews. But then he claims that what he actually provided were “appreciations.” There is a distinction between cheerleading and reviewing, but Mr. Denton does not appear to care about it, and Mr. Harcum is not interested in challenging his subject.

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