What does a visit to Auschwitz today have in common with a trip to Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio? Well, you pay for parking, get the map, and take the rides. Writer-
performer Lisa Kron zigzags frenetically between the two in her one-woman show, 2.5 Minute Ride (Public Theater), aiming to lurch from rib-
splitting humor to shadow-drenched tragedy. In a droll, faux-amateur slide show, she aims her red laser pointer with great seriousness at details of family moments. The joke is that all the screens are blank. The monologue details Kron’s trip with her elderly father— and a motley crew including her gay lover— to the camp where his parents were killed. The visit is part of her quest to see her father whole. Kron juxtaposes the grim European pilgrimage with the annual family outing to Cedar Point. The account of her kvetchy Jewish family at the amusement park is hilarious— radiating chirpy irony flavored with panic, she describes her elderly father popping a nitroglycerin pill before sailing past warning signs to board a rollercoaster with a three-story free fall. Directed by Mark Brokaw with polish and deft comic timing, the piece is full of laugh-out-loud moments— my favorite is 30 single women sobbing at a showing of Little Women. But when Kron leads us through the rooms of eyeglasses and suitcases at Auschwitz, her tone feels forced. In her desperation to know and present her dad, she manages only fragments (in one provocative scene he interrogates a former Gestapo agent). Kron’s pain at seeking to fathom the enormity of her father’s losses is touching, but ultimately he remains a blank screen.
— Francine Russo
Irish Eyes Are Styling
While walking in the forest one day, young Jaymony Shanahan meets a woman who sells him three magic glasses— in which “all the pleasure and diversion of the world you’ll hear and see.” To the horror of his parents, Jaymony then cloisters himself in the attic for a twelvemonth, rapt by the wide seas, brave armies, and lovely girls that parade before his eyes.
Like its protagonist, The Magic Glasses (CSV) also loses itself in a march of pretty pictures and sounds. Director Richard Nash-Siedlecki, a former Foreman cohort best known for his innovative staging of Joyce’s Exiles, leads the Daedalus Theatre Company through a
merry dance as he twists this simple fairy story into a mess of extravagance and pretension. Though possessed of scores of novel ideas, Nash-Siedlecki crams too many into this piece. The director uses jump-cut film, flashing lights, a techno soundscape, masks, puppetry, repetition, song, and a dressmaker’s dummy to put across this 1908 Irish folk drama. Some of these efforts do resonate— the juxtaposition of unearthly effects and mundane house life creates a fine mix of natural and supernatural. But the sense of the story, and any attendant pathos, gets lost. The striking moments are the wordless ones, suggesting that the text of the play was an impediment to its staging.
The hodgepodge of acting styles mirrors the scenic confusion. Though she must deliver most lines while holding a doll in front of her face, Mary Christopher presents Jaymony straightforwardly. Yet actors playing her parents whip themselves into an emotional tizzy. As a visiting quack, Michael Early camps, Yuri Skujin’s Aunt Jug vamps, and, as Aunt Mary, the dressmaker’s dummy is terribly wooden. — Alexis Soloski
All the Rage
Homegirls on the Prowl (Henry Street Settlement) unleashes seven young Latina women wrestling with the violent death of a close friend. Under a haunting mural, “Angel, 19791997,” these chicas stomp around their asphalt playground, mouthing off famously to mask their hurt.
Writer Cyn Cañel Rossi and director Yvette Tomlinson unfold their piece in 15 vignettes— coming-of-age stories really— that are as much about loss as they are about passion, fear, identity, and the torture of trying to fit into a world too staid to absorb a young woman’s unfettered rage. With bits about abuse and poverty, cultural pride and coming out, these could be the recollections of girls anywhere. But this production cuts to the raw material, stoking the complexities of what could elsewhere slip into the stock experience of adolescence.
It’s a rare thing for a cast this size, all delirious smiles melting into gestures jacked with attitude, to be so in sync. Homegirls runs an hour and a half, and not once do they miss a beat or break their rhythm. What gels the piece together is language itself. The homegirls speak in stylized verse, drenched in metaphor and textured with images. Maybe it seems counterintuitive. But tough girls do tend to speak in code, so when Gladys shapes the words lived, felt, defied, sexed, to describe her sexual awakening and then with a bounce meows, to her friend, “Morena, I need to talk. Me and the teacher broke up,” or when the homegirls warn Angel, “Don’t let him love you like that, that way,” the expression is so true that, simple as this sounds, you forget they’re acting. — Kaelen Wilson-Goldie