Walking down Ludlow Street, a young man turned to see someone in a storefront window waving a dildo at him. Angered, he gave the finger, then he noticed an audience inside the storefront delighted by his rage. At that moment, The Collapsable Giraffe's production of Fassbinder's Pre-Paradise Sorry Now implicated its audience in the voyeurism and sadism that the play examines.
The play follows two British serial murderers, Ian Brady and Myra Hindley. Narration about the killers is juxtaposed with dialog in which they justify the torture and murder of "inferior" persons. The plot is set against contres, described by Fassbinder as "scenes about the fascistoid underpinning of everyday life, in which pairs gang up on individuals."
Director Jim Findlay gave each type of scene its own rhythm. The narrations had the self-conscious hesitations of stand-up comedy. Ian and Myra's dialogs were slow, still, and spacey. The contres' high speed and volume had a rock-and-roll drive.
The contres' overt violence lacked the impact of Ian and Myra's restrained, rational cruelty. Standing microphones restricted movement in the contres so that each scene looked alike. All of this made the contres monotonous. It was a pity that Findlay did not pour into them the same inventiveness that had Ian appear rose-in-mouth and the videotape tracking keep time with the narrator's speech.
Still the play was gripping, largely due to the superlative cast. Bill Velin and Tory Vasquez gave Ian and Myra the calm abstraction of pre-Raphaelite angels, which made their soullessness more chilling. Erin Cowen, Iver Findlay, Sinje Ollen, and Todd Van Voris played the contres with both unsparing energy and keen precision. Guy Larkin's gulping narrator improved on the cipher in the script.
Bob Wonder's set made its own commentary by placing Ian and Myra behind a window that aligned them with the passersby who were drawn to watch the violent contres through the theatre windows. Media-monstrosity chairs with video cameras, monitors, lights, and microphones held together with dozens of electrical cables were intriguing but under-used. (It was a shame, since Iver Findlay's video had a nasty, antiseptic crispness.) Sarah Carlson's costumes created separate worlds for each group of characters even more effectively than the set.
The sound by Rob Gould and Bud Grant had a rich, layered texture that was dramatically right on target. Most lighting designers, defeated by Nada's low ceiling, go for utility over artistry. Eric Dyer tried but could not light the extreme sides and back of the space. Otherwise, though, music, microphones, and video were all used non-stop throughout, and the production ran with a smoothness that would be envied by any venue in the city.
Copyright 1996 Michael Yawney
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