A Moveable East

And inside it, he hasn't neglected his actors. I have a small cavil about Elaine Tse, whose spiky portrait of the radical artist seems presealed to ward off all empathy, but even this choice turns out to have justifications in the text. Stephen Lang and Liana Pai, as dealer and scholar, catch both the defensive gloss and the perplexed inner pain in their interaction; Richard Clarke is endearingly avuncular as Pai's mentor; and there's notable work by two young tragicomedians, Rebecca Wisocky and Ebon Moss-Bachrach. Mop-haired Moss-Bachrach, with his spidery arms, pointy features, and fluctuating voice, makes the dealer's assistant an Edward Gorey figure come to life. Wisocky, already a familiar figure downtown, gains in assurance and style every time I see her; her elegant height, long jaw, and ability to shift her features from magazine-cover beauty to muppet cartoonishness make her a happy merger of Zora Rasmussen and Sigourney Weaver.


Lang and company in 36 Views: Books are deceiving.
photo: Michael Daniel
Lang and company in 36 Views: Books are deceiving.

Details

36 Views
By Naomi Iizuka
Joseph Papp Public Theater
425 Lafayette Street 212-239-6200

The Smell of the Kill
By Michele Lowe
Helen Hayes Theatre
Broadway and 44th Street 212-944-9450

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While I'm dropping the names of actresses, let me drop three more: Lisa Emery, Claudia Shear, and Jessica Stone. Now I'd like to suggest that these three delightful artists drop a lame, sometimes thinly funny object called The Smell of the Kill—they could drop it hard on the floor, its dumbness is unbreakable. Then they should find three male actors equal to them in quality, and start a repertory company. There have to be 200,000 plays six people could put on that are better than The Smell of the Kill. Three women who've been living in a Chicago suburb, apparently not far from Ira Levin's Stepford, get variously maltreated by their offstage husbands, get the chance to let the husbands die, and do so. The teensy bit of conflict that intervenes turns out to be faked; its only value is that it briefly gives us the droll sight of monologist Shear with a kitchen sponge tied over her mouth. Other than that, the play is an innocuous fantasy that will probably exert a mild appeal on women who have occasionally thought about killing their spouses. It would work especially well at a dinner theater located near a first-class mall: You need to have been on a major shopping spree to relish the script's barrage of brand names, and with a play this short (83 minutes) and this trivial, you should at least get a three-course meal, even at prices way lower than Broadway's current scale. Christopher Ashley's direction keeps the action bright toned and speedy without undue falsification, and the three performers, playing with as much conviction as if they were three Medeas, never put a foot wrong. But how many places can you put your foot in a one-step?

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