Declaration of interdependence | East Villager & Lower East Sider

Declaration of interdependence

A simple game invented by James Long (left) and Marcus Youssef complicates their friendship, in “Winners and Losers.”  Photo by Pavel Antonov

A simple game invented by James Long (left) and Marcus Youssef complicates their friendship, in “Winners and Losers.” Photo by Pavel Antonov

BY SCOTT STIFFLER  |  Two kinds of people in this world” says the great Lindsay Buckingham song “Go Insane,” which boils each and every one of us down to “winners, losers.” It’s easy (and fun, and convenient!) to see things in strict black and white terms. Mix the two extremes just a little bit, though, and you’re left with a gray area that’s far less appealing but much more realistic.

As they were about to turn 40 — the perfect age for assessing where you fall on the Buckingham Scale — a mutual friend sent longtime Canadian theater collaborators James Long and Marcus Youssef a self-help pyramid scheme email. That led to some frank self-reflection, and the invention of a rapid-fire game called “Winners and Losers.”

In this theatrical version, Long and Youssef take turns naming people, places and things. Without hesitation, they bestow upon them the title of “winner” or “loser.” As the increasingly competitive game progresses, their answers — and the seemingly random nouns they choose to rattle off — reveal how they really feel about themselves, and each other. It’s not long before the polite table talk goes from amusing inkblot test to full-contact wrestling match. May the best friend win!

Soho Rep. Artistic Director Sarah Benson says she was drawn to the acerbic show because it “asks us to consider what we value and how our choices can potentially divide us. New York, where our inequalities are in plain sight, is the ideal stage for their work.” 

In conjunction with select performances, Soho Rep.’s FEED Humanities series will present introspective post-performance events that expand upon thorny issues raised by the show. On Jan. 10, the guests are Columbia Business School social psychologists Adam Galinsky and Daniel Ames. On Jan. 14, the theme is “Mediation” — with Sandra Mary Nuñez of Hunter College and the NY Peace Institute’s Melissa Appleton. Queer, Gender and Ethnic Studies experts weigh in on the show following its Jan. 21 performance, in a talk led by playwright Jorge Ignacio Cortiñas and Ann Pellegrini (Director of NYU’s Center for Sexuality and Gender Studies).

Top to Bottom: James Long and Marcus Youssef wrestle with delusions of grandeur, feelings of inadequacy, and each other.   Photo by Pavel Antonov

Top to Bottom: James Long and Marcus Youssef wrestle with delusions of grandeur, feelings of inadequacy, and each other. Photo by Pavel Antonov

Before the evening performance on Jan. 18, Long and Youssef will teach a free and open-to-the-public “Devising Workshop.” From 2–5 p.m., learn how the show was developed, with an eye towards creating work of your own. Participate in a series of exercises derived from the “Winners and Losers” format, which Long and Youssef describe as “a half-scripted, half-improvised competitive performance.” They encourage you to show up with a close friend, then use the show’s game structure to find out how well you really know each other (while assessing each other’s breaking point). As anyone who’s ever freaked out during a heated game of Monopoly can attest, the line between innocent fun and cutthroat competition is a thin one. In this case, that gossamer thread may be snapped by the presence of beer — “an essential part,” assert Long and Youssef, of the “Winners and Losers” formula!

THEATER  |  WINNERS  AND LOSERS
Created & Performed by
James Long & Marcus Youssef
Jan. 8–11, 14–18, 21–25, 28–Feb. 1 at 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 10, 17, 24, 31 at 3 p.m.
At Soho Rep. 46 Walker St.
(btw. Broadway & Church Sts.)
Tickets: $35
Call 212-352-3101
or visit sohorep.org
$30 general rush and $20 student rush tickets available at the box office one hour prior to curtain (valid school ID required).