What are beautiful people? Are they humans like the rest of us, or are they more like well-made objects—better gazed at than spoken to? This is the question driving Katalina Mustatea’s new play, The Model, a confusing parable of obsession and stiletto heels, in which an unlucky couple discovers an “abandoned model” on Houston Street, and adopts her—with disastrous results.
In Mustatea’s conceit, Trevor and Mercedes’ beloved new housemate is kind of a cross between a highly pedigreed pet and an heirloom settee. (Kate Garfield plays her as a live mannequin, who struts, preens, and flails around with a blank look in her eyes.) Harboring a hunch that she’s “authentic”—we never learn exactly what this means—her doting foster parents summon an “authenticator,” a bumbling professor type given to unintelligible reveries. To Trevor and Mercedes’ disappointment, the ungrateful model attacks him, and eventually flees, leaving the couple’s marriage on the rocks.
But why? Mustatea’s play feels as undernourished as a celery-chomping fashionista: It’s unclear why this model is so thrilling, or why the couple cares so much. Are models an endangered species? Do Trevor and Mercedes long for offspring of their own? Either way, The Model isn’t quite runway-ready; a little spiffing-up is in order before Fashion Week arrives.