At the beginning of The Girl Detective, an adaptation of Kelly Link’s postmodern fairy tale, our titular sleuth (captivatingly played by Kathryn Ekblad) is presented with her latest case: a bank robbery committed by 12 beauties in boas and black masks who tap-dance their way into tellers’ hearts and vaults. In their wake, the underworld spills out into safes and missing things begin to reappear— retainers, mismatched socks, even Amelia Earhart.
Turns out, the Girl Detective knows all about the underworld—she goes there every night in other people’s dreams to search for her missing mother. And as this mesmerizing play progresses, it comes to resemble a dream. Odd characters waltz through—Chinese waiters, 12 dancing sisters. In the under world, words and images are slippery, memory is unstable, and things that mean the most to us (like the color of our lover’s eyes) threaten to disappear faster than the Girl Detective can changes disguises. Beneath its fizzy fun, the play asks a question that haunts our nightmares: What if life is a series of increasingly serious losses—first, a cat runs away, then our husband vamooses with the secretary, then we forget our mother’s face—until the underworld claims all and we are left with nothing?
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 27, 2007