Todd Alcott's incendiary intelligence and pitch-dark vision have been very much in evidence in his solo shows and his serial killer comedy, One Neck. Nada -- where many of Alcott's projects gestated-- saluted his body of work this past month with a ``Toddfest.'' This included a quartet of his plays and The Alcott File, an evening of selected monologues. Jane Faust, though, merited special attention.
A crafty yet thematically solid updating of Marlowe's Doctor Faustus, it made a quirky, off-beat bookend to that masterpiece of English theatre. In Alcott's version, contemporary pressures to be ``the best'' and a general alienation from modern society take the place of Marlowe's voracious thirst for ultimate knowledge as the driving force behind the protaganist's selling her soul to Satan. Unlike her Renaissance predecessor, though, Alcott's anti-heroine is never once slowed or given pause in her revels by any thought to what she may have lost until she is face-to-face with eternal perdition. She still, though, pisses away her newly bestowed occult powers on cheap tricks of revenge and petty indulgences. Above and beyond the sheer, acidically clever pleasures of Alcott's script, the text successfully leaves the audience with a distinct moral perspective without any trace elements of preachiness.
In the title role, Jennifer Woodward had the perfect smug assurance and a commanding presence, but was hampered in her interpretation by a somewhat limited vocal range. (Just a few too many lines delivered with the same cocky cadence.) As Mephistopheles, James Urbaniak was sensational, reminding one and all of just why he received that Obie this year. He was exceptionally memorable in his melding of a tartly cynical (almost outright comic) delivery with the agonizing existential pain that bred it. Michael Louden's campy turn as various devils, victims, and a Pope might have been just a wee bit too broad for the production as a whole but didn't hurt the staging irreparably. Alcott's direction of his own text was (O let us all rise for that sacred benediction of Off-Off-Broadway theatre) very resourceful in making use of a small space. Indeed, the claustrophobia of the Nada storefront was utilized very well in evoking a sense of fate closing in on Faust. The use of self-mocking puppetry was less successful, though.
Inasmuch as Alcott's outlook on life seems to range from black to light black, The Alcott File was surprisingly effective in revealing a spectrum within his solo works. Even outright comic vignettes cross the border into disturbing territory, especially in a seemingly conventional ramble about a visit to a V.D. clinic wherein physical horror explodes out of nowhere.
A variety of different downtown artists performed the pieces, Scott Rabinowitz being an electric standout in the V.D. spiel. Each actor brought something new to each piece. Sometimes this fell flat, as in Joanna Adler's very forgettable turn in a recollection of a near-suicide (delivered almost entirely from behind the flats). The most inventive of the interpretations had to be Robert Sikoryak's ``Droopy Dog-'' cartoon version of the serial killer's exegesis on his life's mission from One Neck..
Todd Alcott and Nada proved, yet again, to be invaluable artistic
resources for this city. Box Score:
Copyright 1996 John Michael Koroly
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