A movie star’s publicist distributes an unusual press release: “Kay Gonda does not cook her own meals or knit her own underwear,” it reads. “She is not like you and me. She never was like you or me. She’s like nothing you bastards ever dreamed of.” Take that, US Weekly. The singular Gonda (Jessie Barr), the great celebrity of her age, has committed a murder. Over the course of Ayn Rand’s Ideal, a less-than-steamy potboiler, she arrives at the doorsteps of six of her greatest fans, determined to see which of them will risk their own safety in order to protect her. On 59E59’s tiniest stage (I have known larger kiddie pools), this 1934 play receives a rare showing.
As one might expect, Ideal is a very silly drama—on the one hand, a period murder mystery; on the other, an outlet for Rand’s ideas about objectivism and rational self-interest. Rand establishes Gonda as some sort of überfrau, a woman given to grandiose speeches about “a few who want the highest possible” and “burning oneself for an impossible vision.” The play glorifies art as an alternative to what Rand calls the “children-dinner-friends-football-and-God reality.”
Of course, the script is rather bad art and not much improved by director Jenny Beth Snyder and her just-out-of-college cast, though everyone expends much energy in the play’s service. Still, director and actors cannot liven the leadenness of the structure or render the stagy dialogue (“Damn the slut!” “Throw the drunken fool out!”) any more playable. If such exclamations represent the ideal of art, suddenly all that children-dinner-friends stuff doesn’t sound half-bad.