Written by Ronnie Koenig
Directed by Robert W. McMaster
Horse Trade Productions
The Kraine Theater
Non-union production (closes January 27)
Review by Adam Cooper
Sometimes the career
plans of an upwardly mobile, nice Jewish woman from
Ronnie Koenig’s Dirty Girl is a comedic sketchbook of a biopic based on her real life experiences of writing and editing for Playgirl magazine. Under McMaster’s direction, this production, utilizing a kitschy, presentational style, centers on Dori relating her story through heavily descriptive schmoozing with the audience while characters buzz and locales metamorphose around her with near-lightning speed. Koenig leads a five-member ensemble cast (featuring Corrie Beula, Bridget Harvey, Michael Littner, and Jesse Teeters) that plays literally dozens of characters who color Dori’s personal and professional world.
Beginning rather forebodingly with a live, tongue-in-cheek commercial for the production’s hosiery sponsor, Secrets in Lace, the play follows with the quirky escapades of Dori seeking and securing the writing gig. Initially turned down for the job, she hits her groove when she is spontaneously able to come up with a hundred unique words for penis. Though drawn to the job, Dori has trouble justifying it once she has it. Feeling dirty and unsettled, Dori does some fieldwork to unravel who the audience of her magazine really is. On her journey she visits sultry photo shoots, goes to clubs to investigate lap dancing, consults with an EST-like body guru, and even participates in an O’Reilly Factor interview and a speech at Barnard to comprehend her motivations and justify her behaviors.
While dealing with potentially intriguing subject matter, this production’s amateurish text, cardboard cutout characters, and wobbly plotline make for a mildly amusing but roundly unreal and unsatisfying dramatization. Although the material is based on the autobiographical experiences of the playwright, the text comes off like an adolescent’s view of the adult working world. More crucially, the power of the material is sapped by the repeated violation of the dramatic prime directive: show, don’t tell. Though performed with gusto, the material limits opportunities for the players to go beyond portraying sound bites of stilted stereotypes. Indeed, their characterizations too often play like adolescents hamming it up as grown-up caricatures.
The world of the play has a persistent unanchored quality, making empathy or even sympathy for Dori’s experience all but impossible. The plot, consisting of thematically-linked sketch comedy vignettes that pass by with the speed and depth of a comic book adventure, is hampered by a particularly weak dramatic question engendering little interest and risking even less. Billed as a multimedia extravaganza, the technical components largely consist of a sizable video screen that emits quirky visuals that complement the production’s campy style; however, it is used to little creative effect beyond suggesting a scene or underlining a point. Likewise, the set design by Edward Hodge relies on simple, reusable pieces that are functional but not imbued with much art.
Copyright 2007 Adam Cooper
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