If the police blotter reports a string of Hallmark store knock-overs, the cops need look no further than P.S.122 for the culprit. Unless he has a spectacularly good grant writer, how else could Ken Nintzel have afforded the orgy of streamers, balloons, cardboard shamrocks, crepe-paper turkeys, and enormous inflatable pumpkins he deploys in Lapse? Set in the hospital room of a comatose woman, Lapse features the frantic attempts of candy stripers to keep the room’s decor seasonally current. As the woman lies motionless, the loudspeaker blares and a swarm of volunteers swirl about her. In pink aprons and sensible shoes, they shout rhymes, perform B-squad cheerleader moves, and ensure that once the leprechaun cutouts come down, the chocolate bunnies and Easter eggs go up immediately. Stat!
Nintzel’s previous play, the wordless Pageant, staged a beauty contest for would-be Virgin Marys. Rounds included the Annunciation and the Adoration. Angels fluttered and Christ children nursed while the anxious contestants primped and drank Tabs. Like Pageant before it, Lapse creates a singular visual world with its clever and antic use of props and stage space. Also like Pageant, the current piece combines loveliness and silliness in equal quantities, with a subtle sense of melancholy stirred into the mix. In fact, perhaps Lapse is altogether too like Pageant for its own health. Though still delirious and hallucinatory, this time around Nintzel’s offering seems somehow slight—possessed of no more gravity than the streamers the young women struggle so ceaselessly to hang. In the 45-minute run time, a whole year and every imaginable holiday (pace Arbor Day) pass by, but Nintzel doesn’t appear to have moved forward at all.