Post-election analysis: New Yorkers who feel the city's better off than it was four years ago voted for Giuliani. Those who think it's worse off voted for Messinger. Those who think the city is a depraved cauldron of lust and evil did not vote at all, preferring instead to become playwrights. And the efforts of three of these, which received workshop productions at the Looking Glass Theatre, were as tentative and preliminary as any election-year Quality of Life campaign.
"It's a city of wounded birds," concludes Bea (Catherine Chambers), referring to her friend Jane (Margaret Cino), the heroine of Judy Sheehan's enjoyable How I Spent My Summer Vacation. Jane has spent not only her vacation but the last 15 weeks holed-up in her apartment, her self-imposed exile the result of a typical series of New York irritations (e.g., a loony chanting "fuck you, bitch" behind her in line at the bank, a guy peeing in an adjacent phone booth, a tomato that costs $1.75 at a deli). The straw that breaks the wounded bird's back, however, is a horrific subway murder Jane witnesses up-close. And as her isolation grows, so did Cino's performance, becoming finally a richly satisfying portrait of neurosis. Less satisfying, portrait-wise, were Sheehan's strained attempts at seriousness, as when Bea, speaking of the importance of denial to human existence, says, "the human soul can't take that much vertality." That much what? (Perhaps the actress misspoke, or was misheard. Or perhaps "vertality" is Sheehanspeak for "New York-bashing"?)
Anyway, a serial killer's on the loose in Yasmine Rana's Decent; bodies are emerging from the river "like a baptism." Detective Brad (Stephen Cabral) has been assigned not only to the case, but to match wits with Corey (Victoria
Majeski), a sister of one of the victims. Clues to the killer's identity are few, though Brad has indeed determined that the killer is a man, a revelation which Corey (inexplicably) finds shocking. The perv's a mystery otherwise. You see, "he's good," Brad says. "He's real good." OK... The opening image, of Corey arranging victims' photos on two long clotheslines, was more powerful than anything else in the play. The direction, which encouraged rapid-fire delivery, was, unfortunately, utterly wrong. It spoiled the early promise of Majeski's performance, and made Cabral's every line sound affected.
Finally, there was Kristen Schiener's Rhetoric, something of a cross between a Saturday Night Live sketch and a Penthouse Forum letter. April (Suzanne Cannizzo) and Emily (Tara Parker) are two old friends who meet in a restaurant, apparently for the sole purpose of graphically discussing April's sexual habits. "How much technique," Emily asks, "is there to giving head?"
And guess what - the waiter (David McCallum) has just walked up at that moment! Sadly, this bit of shtick occurs a number of times in the play, thus taxing the audience (as well as preventing us from ever finding out just how much technique there is to giving head). McCallum had a few moments, and Cannizzo seemed a natural as April, which - given the character's penchant for skintight black dresses and midnight sex romps on The Great Lawn - is either a blessing or a curse, depending on your point of view. (Also featuring Paul Vinger.) Schiener's script, while completely forgettable, did at least possess a refreshing lack of, um, vertality.
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Copyright 1997 Scott Vogel