On Sunday, April 14, News Editor Emma Burris and Staff Writer Viviana Pereyo went to the Lenfest Center matinee show of Timmy, a stunning new play written by visionary Columbia Playwriting MFA student Megan Rivkin.

Timmy is one of the best plays both of us have ever seen. Undoubtedly. Written by Megan Rivkin (Columbia Playwriting MFA, ‘24) and directed by Miles Sternfeld (Columbia Directing MFA, ‘25), this play tackles the themes of dysfunctional family relationships, sexuality, and truth in the digital age. 

Taking place in the early 2010s, Timmy is centered around a multigenerational household in the suburbs. The oldest daughter, the cruel, sardonic, hilarious 28-year-old Alexa (Mari Blake), is living at home without paying rent, where she’s engaged in an online relationship with a mysterious man named Timmy (Riley Fee). Other members of the household include Alexa’s validation-seeking 16-year-old brother Morris (Mateen Kane), unassuming and repressed 19-year-old cousin Kate (Raegan Elizabeth Parker), neurotic and controlling mother Gem (Renée Hewitt), and innocuous grandmother Van (Carol Drewes). 

The scene was set in the style of early 2010s decor with the left providing a setup of the kitchen and the right showing Alexa’s room. Divided between the two sections was a screen, projected with various early 2010s internet photos (i.e. Tumblr text posts, eos lip balm products, Starbucks drinks, One Direction images) before the show. During the show, this screen was blank, changing to projections of digital patterns and flashing lights during scene changes. As scenes changed, electronic music was played, as if to remind the audience that they should be laughing and giving them time to process what they just saw. Before the production, familiar songs were played, such as Coldplay’s “A Sky Full of Stars,” Fun’s “We Are Young,” and Train’s “Drive By.” 

Timmy set.

At the beginning of the play, we watch Kate go on a date with a man she’s been talking to online nonstop for weeks, only just now meeting him in person. This character is introduced to us as Timmy, who soon breaks things off with Kate, made uncomfortable by his age after his Facebook profile only showed younger pictures. The two struggle to find common ground, and Timmy tells Kate that she would “Get along well with my daughter Bunny, since you’re both girls.” Kate is frustrated by this, and the pair share an awkward kiss before she returns home.

In the next scene, we see Alexa in her room, texting (and sexting) her online boyfriend—who is the very same Timmy who had just gone out with Kate. Although Alexa is texting Timmy online, we see him right in front of her, speaking to her and making sexual gestures to mirror his texts. Alexa sports a bright pink two-piece tracksuit and a baby tee that spells out “Babygirl” in tiny silver gems as she complains about a coworker, claiming, “She’s one of those people who’s always having a grandmother die.” Alexa is essentially Sharpay Evans with a rampant sex drive. 

As the play progresses, we witness the interactions between Alexa and her family members, who she ruthlessly bullies with hysterical one-liners. “You kinda read as a never ever poops kinda girly,” Alexa tells Kate. In another scene, Alexa remarks to her grandmother that “It’s sort of repulsive to be horny at your age,” after Van accidentally clicks on a porn site, leading her computer to develop a virus. The interplay between the characters is hilarious, yet painful, to watch—although Alexa is a terrible person, the audience is drawn to her wit and humor. Nonetheless, we feel the exhaustion of Alexa’s mother Gem, who is unable to both correct her daughter’s behavior and modify her strictness based on which child it’s directed at. Alexa’s family members, although practically despising her, end up finding solace in making fun of her perceived stupidity. They all join together to complain about her as soon as she leaves the room.

Later on, we see Alexa in a coffee shop, where the person ordering behind her is Timmy. They meet at last! Alexa is ecstatic, but Timmy is dismissive of her advances, acting almost like he’s never seen Alexa before. Because he hasn’t. It turns out the “real” Timmy—who we see with Kate and at the coffee shop—and the Timmy who has been texting Alexa are two different people. The Timmy Alexa knows (or, the “fake” Timmy) is in fact not one person, but four—Kate, Morris, Gem, and even Van. Using photos taken from real Timmy’s Facebook, the family has constructed a Tinder page in order to catfish Alexa. But why? What’s their motive? At this point, it’s revealed that Alexa has been sending money to Timmy for a variety of falsified reasons. The four family members have taken advantage of Alexa’s low intelligence to renovate their kitchen and fill their house with state-of-the-art gadgets. Over time, Alexa has sent upwards of $20,000 to her family. Seemingly unimportant gestures within past scenes, like Kate texting at the same time as Alexa, come to the audience’s minds. 

The play continues to outdo its wit and ingenuity, as now we get to see the four family members let their texting styles shine through fake Timmy. Gem refuses to take part in the texting itself, not wanting to be “complicit” as Alexa’s mom, even though she’s still involved in the scam. Morris’s texting style mirrors his age and deep-seated need for validation, as he texts Alexa pictures of his drawings and asks for her opinions. Van’s texting mirrors her age, as well—with each typo she makes Timmy speaks out loud, eliciting roars of laughter from the audience. Alexa assumes he’s drunk, while the audience is filled with dread. 

Out of all the family members involved in the scheme, Kate’s involvement is the most atypical. While Gem insists everyone deflect Alexa’s lewd language into PG-13 talk, Kate gives into Alexa’s wishes. For every lewd text Alexa sends, Kate (as fake Timmy) sends a text twice as intense. As Timmy surrounds Alexa with sexual gestures and advances, we see Kate on the opposite side of the stage masturbating. Talk about incest! 

At around this point, we see Alexa start to realize that maybe the Timmy she’s texting isn’t the same one she met in person at the coffee shop. The Timmy she knows online has recently been telling her that he’s stuck in Egypt and needs money to get out. However, this doesn’t match up, since she already has plans to meet the real Timmy at the coffee shop. Somebody must be catfishing her—but who? Alexa continues speaking to fake Timmy, responding to his graphic sexual advances via text but visibly indifferent and unengaged. When she meets Timmy at the coffee shop, she asks to see his Facebook profile. Who could be behind this? She scrolls through his Facebook friends and her eye catches a familiar profile—Kate’s. Alexa screams, vowing revenge on her cousin. The real Timmy, charmed by Alexa, offers to help her. Soon after, the real Timmy’s involvement leads to him starting a relationship with Alexa of his own. 

Alexa arrives home, ready to catch Kate in action and confirm her suspicion that she is pretending to be Timmy. To her confusion, she receives messages even as Kate appears to be reading a book in the kitchen. However, she soon spots her brother coming out of his room with a notebook that has a drawing that looks very similar—one Timmy had sent her just minutes earlier. She has a run-in with her grandmother that cements her worst suspicions, as Van texts Alexa as fake Timmy saying, “Girls can’t be freaks.” Alexa responds, “But you’re not a girl?” At this point, Alexa realizes Kate wasn’t the only one pretending—it was her entire family.

Ultimately, everything comes crashing down in a scene when Kate, Morris, Gem, and Van are in the kitchen. Their new dishwasher has “suddenly” broken down, spewing a never-ending stream of bubbles that begins to fill the room. The four begin to panic, Van screaming, “We are sinners! We have sinned!” Morris is tasked with calling a plumber on a site that Alexa has programmed to glitch on the payment screen—when Morris puts down $100 for a non-refundable deposit, the price will change to $10,000 in a split second. It turns out Alexa has learned this from her job as a caller for a pet insurance company, which is implied to scam its customers.

The plumber—none other than the real Timmy—soon arrives at the front door. Kate answers and proceeds to panic herself. Knowing that she used the real Timmy’s pictures to construct the fake Timmy, and that Alexa will arrive home at any second, Kate begs for the real Timmy to leave. He refuses, pushing forward into the house, where the whole family remains shocked. Soon, Alexa arrives, jumping into the real Timmy’s arms and pretending to welcome him back to the country after his departure from Egypt. They embrace, while the rest of the family stands there horrified. 

At this moment, Alexa lets loose on her family, revealing that she’s figured out what they’ve been doing. She first directs her anger toward her mother Gem. “You have abandoned me. You have opened me up to harm. You have benefited,” she tells Gem. “I feel so incredibly stupid to have ever thought you loved me.” At this point, fascinatingly, Gem doesn’t respond or say she does love Alexa, showing the peak of her own callousness, the lack of love or care she holds for her own child. “I am the monster that you created,” Alexa tells her mother. If Alexa is cruel to her family, she is so as a result of her upbringing. 

Alexa also turns to her brother Morris, who stands frozen, head down. She yells at him, then takes a break to tell him he’s talented at art, which she’s saying because his mother doesn’t validate him. (This calls back to a previous scene, where Morris is berated by his mother for not wanting her to have access to his school portal for the sake of his own privacy.) Then, Alexa shifts gears, yelling at Morris to “shut the fuck up!” Rivkin’s control over the script is masterful—in the same moment, she portrays both a tender, emotional moment and elicits laughs from her audience. 

The moment the audience anticipated the most was Alexa’s confrontation with Kate. Alexa tears into her, telling her how she has no right to interact with her like that. “You will burn in hell,” Alexa insists. “I know!” Kate responds, sobbing. “Not for the gay thing though,” Alexa clarifies, adding a pause to the tense scene. As Kate cries, Alexa asks, “Does that bug you? No more sexting your cousin?” Kate collapses on the ground in tears, repeating to herself, “I didn’t do a bad thing. I’m not bad. I’m not bad.” Meanwhile, Gem defends Kate, taking her niece’s side over that of her own daughter. After everything, Gem won’t believe that Kate sexted Alexa, choosing to believe that Alexa faked the lewd messages. 

After the confrontations, the real Timmy makes the (insane) choice to propose to Alexa, to which she accepts. Offering Alexa some champagne, she declines, announcing her pregnancy, a callback to an earlier scene when Alexa has sex with real Timmy and throws up the next morning. “I’m gonna be a grandmother!” Gem exclaims. “No!” Alexa responds. “To be a grandmother you need to be someone’s mother,” she says, denouncing her. The play ends with the room continuing to overflow with bubbles when the family discovers they’ve been locked inside their house due to Alexa messing with the house’s new security system. Everyone screams, and the lights go dark. 

This play was just fabulous in every single way. Writer and creator Rivkin was absolutely ingenious—the concept of this play was extraordinarily creative, and everything was executed so well. The dialogue between the characters was so quick and hilarious—there was never a minute that passed where the audience wasn’t laughing. Every time we thought this play couldn’t possibly get better, it did, subverting our expectations in every way. Watching this play was how we felt watching the likes of Parasite or The Handmaiden—twists at every turn, keeping you on the edge of your seat. Except unlike those films, this play never had a dull moment—every single second was necessary and more entertaining than the last. Although neither of us has seen Saltburn, we imagine this play to be our Saltburn (both have disturbed family dynamics, constant twists, a dark/bizarre atmosphere, and a well-chosen soundtrack), given how obsessed we are with what we saw on Sunday. 

The directing was also magnificent. Sternfeld perfectly executed the insertion of online conversations within interactions between our characters, placing fake Timmy hilariously in between Alexa and her family members. While all the actors were impressive, Alexa’s and Timmy’s stood out above all. Their over-the-top performances perfectly matched that of their characters, entertaining the audience to an extent you only feel entertained rarely. These characters were also all so real—however intense their personalities were, they were personalities we’ve all seen in people we know. Everyone either has a mother or knows a mother like Gem. Everyone with siblings has engaged in some extent of cruel banter with each other, which is mirrored in Alexa’s childish interactions with her family members. Morris and Van, most of all, are characters that the audience can understand so perfectly. 

Some other standout quotes were so hilarious as one-liners—see below for a list: 

  • “You never ask about me. When was the last time you asked about me? I knit. I fucking knit. Did any of you know that about me? I don’t knit.” – Alexa.
  • “You’re mean to your grandmother.” – Gem. “She likes it.” – Alexa. 
  • “How about you, Morris, you have a girlfriend?” – Alexa. “No,” – Morris. “What, are you gay?” – Alexa. 
  • “There’s nothing scarier than a female pervert.” – Gem. 
  • “I have never minded gay people! Bisexuals I cannot stand.” – Van. 

In addition to being monumentally hilarious, this play is rife with profound philosophical and emotional depth. After the play, we were left with many lingering thoughts. Who exactly is most at fault in this scenario? Were anybody’s actions justified? They’re all bad people, but among Kate, Gem, and Alexa—who is worse? Is anybody more or less deserving of forgiveness given their circumstances? In the end, these people are all just terrible, selfish people hurting terrible, selfish people. While you can have fun with the dynamic, at the same time, it raises a deep sense of moral dread. 

This play also left us with a few unresolved ponderings. Firstly, we wish we were given some sort of backstory (even just a few lines) regarding how Kate, Morris, Gem, and Van got the idea to catfish Alexa. We were so curious about who specifically in the family started it, and we felt it would have led to a lot of interesting character insight! Additionally, we wanted to know more about why Kate liked Alexa so much—we know Kate has strange sexual desires regarding her cousin, but why? What does she see in Alexa? 

Additionally, we were assuming Alexa would have a more extreme reaction to finding out the Timmy she’s been texting and sending money to wasn’t actually the person she thought he was. It seems like her realization is gradual after seeing the real Timmy for the first time at the coffee shop. Although she has a moment of panic after finding out Kate has been catfishing her, we didn’t feel there was a similar reaction to when she realized she was being catfished at all. There’s this man she loves so much and has been talking to nonstop, and then all of a sudden she learns none of it was real—we wish there was a bit more emotional baggage involved. However, it would make sense if this didn’t come through if Alexa really does qualify as a psychopath, given her psychopathic traits throughout the production. 

After lots of internet research and eavesdropping on Sunday, Timmy seems to be Megan Rivkin’s baby. Rivkin is a writer who just exudes talent—this play is fit to be on Broadway more so than half the plays already running there. Keep her on your radar and go to her shows before she’s famous, since her plays are sure to sell out for $100+ tickets years down the line. Thank you, Megan Rivkin, for writing this. We feel lucky to live on the same Earth as you!

For anybody who’s a fan of the Columbia MFA productions, check out more plays as a part of their 2024 New Plays Festival! There are many more to come later this month and next, and if the writers are as masterful as Megan Rivkin, then you’re in for a real treat! 

“Timmy” set via News Editor Emma Burris