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Gianmarco Soresi analyzes his love life and his art in Less Than 50%
When it comes to romance, playwright and stand-up Gianmarco Soresi admits he's a bit cynical, like many of his fellow millennials. He unpacks his generation's skeptical attitude toward relationships -- especially marriage -- in his new autobiographical comedy Less Than 50%, currently running at 59E59 Theaters.
Soresi plays himself in the two-hander, which dissects his real-life college showmance with a woman named Laura Catalano (Hannah Hale) that continued for five years before ending. In addition to chronicling the affair, the duo deconstructs the production's development with quirky comic bits that smash the fourth wall and infuse the breakup story with humor. It's a play within a play about the making of a play, a multilayered, metatheatrical meditation on love in the age of dating apps and social media.
"There is a degree of confusion desired, and some trickery involved," says Soresi. "There's a very fine line between bringing the audience along for the ride and really making them excited by the confusion, versus them just being confused. I want to keep them on their toes without knocking them over."
Less Than 50% grew out of Soresi's comedy career. "The beginnings of this play were built out of hours of stand-up I had written in a Word document," he recalls. "I would turn a couple of jokes into a scene. And those jokes just gradually were ironed into real people talking."
Soresi and Catalano portrayed themselves in the first iteration of the show, which played as a "paint-by-the-numbers rom-com." But over the years as he kept working on the material, it morphed into an unromantic comedy, with a title that reflects his distrust of marriage since approximately 50 percent end in divorce. Soresi's own parents were a statistic: They split when he was a mere seven days old.
The current incarnation of Less Than 50% is quite different from its predecessors, especially when it comes to Laura. Since she's now being played by an actress and not Soresi's real-life ex, he has reworked some parts and allowed the character to evolve. "It's always a challenge when you're basing a character on a real person," he says. "I used to look at my own words and go, 'I'm not fully capturing this person.' But she is no longer a simulacrum of my ex-girlfriend. She is a creation of my words, this actor's spirit and this director's oversight. It's a new thing."
Soresi points to stand-ups-turned-storytellers such as Hannah Gadsby (Nanette), Chris Gethard (Career Suicide and Mike Birbiglia (Sleepwalk with Me, The New One) as his inspirations for turning his travails into theatre. "For the generation I'm a part of, and everyone younger than me, there's an obsession with reality," he says. "We want to know the actual lives of everyone now." This kind of autobiographical comedy "is definitely in a new kind of bubble phase, and everybody is excited about it."
Perhaps that's because audiences are able to work through (or at least laugh at) some of their own issues while watching these types of brutally honest yet relatable comedies. But that doesn't mean Soresi has any answers when it comes to love. All he knows is the odds of marriage are never in your favor.
"I have some deep idea of a soulmate or someone I want to be with forever, and it goes against my very realistic side," he admits. "Because, you know, look at the statistics."
Allison Considine is a staff writer at American Theatre magazine. Follow her at @theatric_ally. Follow TDF at @TDFNYC.
Top image: Gianmarco Soresi and Hannah Hale in Less Than 50%. Photos by Hunter Canning.
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