The Bodyguard's Amnesia

By Larry Myers
Directed by Christopher Williams
RWM Playwrights Lab
Kraine Theatre
85 E. 4th St. (501-4381)
Sunday Apr. 19 at 6:30 p.m.
Non-union production
Review by Scott Vogel

For theatregoers who do not enjoy one-man shows, an evening of Larry Myers's work is ill-advised. Even fans of the genre may be disappointed by much of The Bodyguard's Amnesia, a hodgepodge of 17 dramatic monologues performed by 17 actors, for what seems like 17 times seven long minutes. This is something of a shame, as a few of the pieces are wonderful examples of first-person theatre, and a few of the performers demonstrate much promise. Perhaps a long parade of monologists inevitably leaves the eyes glazed and the spirit numb, like those of a grudging invitee enduring a cocktail party. But Mr. Myers's party out-flops even those occasions, lacking the compensations of booze, intrigue, and a wider variety of characters (and substituting instead Christopher Williams's staging, which made an open-call audition seem imaginative by comparison).

Soirees like this make the bystander grateful for any passing fascination, and there is no shortage of eager oddballs willing to extend a hand. "I live like a displaced bat," says Vampira (Alexandra Progranassi), a take-no-prisoners lesbian who's seen everything, done everything, and therefore wears only black. ("It's all colors, it's the absence of color, it's the color of the skin of my closest friends," she explains.) Performer and material are perfectly matched here, with often hilarious results. Whether delivering postcards from the edge - "I pass homeless drag queens ... [their] lipstick created by licking the corners of Time magazine" - or recounting her unlikely romance with a cat burglar - "I was looking for a gal with some nerve" - she was that rarest of creatures, a narcissist who never overstays her welcome. In fact, the audience will likely wish she would.

Next up was Joe Brocato as a 20-something guppie with a seemingly perfect existence. His life with his lover is "something out of one of the coffeetable books which we keep lying out, dusted on the hour." (Myers's characters tend to have a cleaning fetish, especially Carol London's Marlena, for whom "housecleaning is a path of contemplation." They are, as Ms. London mispronounces it, "fastiduous".) The guppie's arrogant attitude toward gay stereotypes (Angels in America is reduced to "leather and drag queens and dying") makes Brocato's own cardboard gentility all the more appropriate.

Flashes of wit abound in several of the other monologues. Because so many are written in the same way, in the same voice, and with the same concerns, however, their cumulative effect is slight. The characters' celebrity fascination, for example, seems less a leitmotif than a writer's crutch. Kim Crawford's character wants to be Marcia Clark, Monte Zanca's to be Judy Garland; Mr. Brocato's thinks Al Gore and Dan Quayle are the same person, Lisa Sredniawski's that Eric and Julia Roberts are the same person; Victoria Demtchenko's doesn't think Princess Diana had to die, Jesse Kay's that Totie Fields had to die. Other characters are united by sheer clichedness (George Stumpf's surfer dude, Lorissa Laurel's opera diva, Mike Hartz's Calvin Klein model, Ohad Hershkovitz's 70s retread). Why has the bodyguard got amnesia?

Quentin Crisp has reportedly stated that Mr. Myers's characters are terrified "of being ordinary, of being overlooked, of being forgotten." One would think, then, that the last thing such similar creatures should do is gather together in one place. Surrounded by clones, their terror is unfortunately justified.

Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 0
Acting: 1
Sets: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1
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Copyright 1998 Scott Vogel