Like a Hurricane
Casey Fraser sweeps onto the stage. A tiny figure with saucer-sized eyes and upswept hair, she pulls a doll’s head from the folds of her velvet cloak and shakes it like a censer at the spectators. “Domini spirito Christo,” she intones. “Baruch atah adonai. Allah akbar.” Guess it’s just her nondenominational way of saying, “Bless this house.”
Born and bred in Loisaida, raised Christian-Jewish while attending a Spanish Catholic church, Fraser has her spunky street smarts down pat. And she gives them free rein in her solo show Why We Don’t Bomb the Amish (St. Marks Theater). She’s an overcaffeinated hurricane—albeit an amiable one—spinning out pronouncements on subway musicians, the No. 6 train, the confusion of the new Times Square. “Excuse me,” she asks, “How many Mickey bucks for a blow job?”
Unfortunately, while Fraser wisely keeps her jokes focused on the local, the brunt of her material feels stale—the statute of limitations on squeegee man cracks has long since run out. And, in patching her stand-up bits into a theater piece, she loses some simplicity of design. Director Darren Press has Fraser pause between vignettes, wait for a light cue, then take a moment to either make up or strip down. Task completed, Fraser stands stock still and says, “Please continue to hold, all of our operators are currently busy with other customers,” etc. These intermissions rob Fraser of her endearingly exuberant performance style. Best to lose the washed-out jokes and contrived bits, and let Fraser’s saucy, bossy-kid persona out to play. —Alexis Soloski
Anne Legault’s O’Neill (Blue Heron Theatre) is a biographical sketch of Eugene O’Neill. Now, you may wonder, isn’t it just a wee bit redundant to write a biographical drama about a guy who wrote the great autobiographical drama, Long Day’s Journey Into Night?
Quite correct. In Legault’s lugubrious piece, it’s 1940 and the 52-year-old O’Neill is hard at work on that very play, trying to exorcise the demons of his skinflint actor-father, alcoholic actor-brother, and morphine-addicted mother, all of whom stand around in a kind of Pirandellian way, alternately berating and cajoling him. Add in the characters of O’Neill’s estranged children and his second wife, Carlotta, and you have a curious mix of the mundanely weird and the weirdly mundane, complete with clichéd dialogue like, “Is this a dream?” “More like a nightmare!”
If the French Canadian playwright’s stilted dialogue (translated by Daniel Libman) weren’t dreary enough, every so often she tosses in some of O’Neill’s own writing. The effect is depressing; it underlines what an ineffectual drama O’Neill is and makes you long for the real thing.
Most of the actors gamely jump into the proceedings, though Jeff Bond has the most unenviable role—that of O’Neill’s autobiographical alter ego, Edmund Tyrone, who for the most part shuffles mutely around the stage, until, in a clunky plot twist, he moves from the fictional universe into O’Neill’s world. Wayne Maugans puts in a credible performance as the playwright’s brother, Jamie, though you can’t help but wonder what he would do in Long Day’s Journey. And Nicholas Stannard’s hammy portrayal of the title character is just downright peculiar. With his clipped, mid-Atlantic dialect, he seems like he’s constantly auditioning for that turn-of-the-century melodrama that made O’Neill’s father famous, The Count of Monte Cristo. —Stephen Nunns
Dead to the World
We descend the steps to hell, a chaotic space guarded by black plastic walls, lit by flame, splattered with blood, and haunted with eerie violins.
At the start of Frankenstein in Love (Nada), the few lights dim to the flickering face of the narrating whore. “It is the last, long night of the world,” she begins. “The last, the very last.” Is this hell, or Plato’s cave? Both, we’re to discover.
Director Ian W. Hill has certainly succeeded in capturing horror fiction in theater—”Just as long as the audience feels trapped in an asylum with a cast of wicked, and occasionally inspired poet psychotics . . . ” is the philosophy of the play’s writer, Clive Barker. This hell is the home of Cesar Guererra, created eight years ago by Dr. Joseph Frankenstein and thrown into the world physically mismatched and unfinished. Guererra is now the dictator behind a revolution that’s ridding the globe of all “natural men” to make room for his people—the monsters and the dead.
Frankenstein‘s ghouls sport crooked limbs, swollen bellies, and gray complexions; they chop up a priest and gnaw on his bloodied, severed limbs. Without dismissing Frank Cwiklik’s obvious talent—he plays a convincing, sometimes revolting, sometimes squeezable monster—his six feet of clumsy height, hair black as hell’s walls, and eyes spooky as fire move his performance beyond convincing and into the real.
Frankenstein in Love is a play about the filth of reality and the reality of filth, throwing the hypocrisy of war and religion and the contradictions of the human condition into our faces. Hill reels us deeply into Barker’s realm of rot and decay—it’s perhaps no coincidence that when dismissed to ascend once again to the light of the real world, we could not distinguish the door out from the theatrical walls that had locked us in. —Emma Pearse