Comedy that gets under the skin

Icons & Outcasts

Written and directed by Suzanne Bachner
John Montgomery Theatre Company
Midtown International Theatre Festival
New Perspectives Theatre
750 Eighth Ave. (279-4200 or
Equity showcase (closes Aug. 24)
Review by Andres J. Wrath

Icons & Outcasts is a series of two dozen vignettes ranging from public access TV to vampirism, blowjobs, and 12-step recovery, amongst other things. For all its over-the-top lunacy and antics, it is extremely well-written and was tightly directed. It owes as much to Buffy the Vampire Slayer as it does any one of Shakespeare's comedies. Hilarious, scathing, and a lot of fun are the words that best describe Icons & Outcasts.

The strongest element of Bachner's writing is the liveliness of the dialogue and the boldness of the characters. Her characters seem to cling to false notions of themselves, and, as they search for an identity, they miss obvious clues to what may make them happy. Take for instance Jennifer Monroe (Liz Sullivan), who thinks she's one of Charlie's Angels; Clark Parker (Sarah E. Shively), who is a doctor by day and a vampire at night; Candy Box (Barbara Hentshel), who needs to add class to her "Robin Byrd-esque" show by having Anthony (Anthony Giangrande) recite a Shakespearean sonnet as he strips; and Arkansas Jack (Felicia Scarangello), who searches for his/her long-lost brother Bobby Ray (also played by Scarangello).

It's hard to pinpoint exactly where Bachner's characters have come from -- they all seem to have run away from Bellevue's mental ward -- or where they will end up. What is exciting is how actively she places her characters' needs in the here and now. Her characters all live in heightened states of reality and delusion, making for some sharply sketched bits like the satire on Starbucks. As a glue to the piece, in walks HP (Alex McCord), who seems more menacing than all of them put together. HP tells each one what would make them happy, but nobody listens, sending the evening into a tailspin as everyone ends up on Candy Box's show.

The cast, which included Cara Pontillo, Margaret Stockton, Alexander R. Warner, Elizabeth Reeves, Francis O'Flynn, Danny Wiseman, David E. Leidholdt, and Mark Diaz, was first-rate. Except for Giangrande, the male roles were played by women, giving the proceedings an even more Shakespearean edge. Even though the actresses were still dressed as women, both Shively and Scarangello were astonishing in their transformation as men.

The directing by Bachner was very sharp. Her use of the New Perspectives Theatre was excellent. Her cast moved about the stage with flowing ease. Patrick Hillan's sound (which consisted of a whip cracking between scenes) helped the many transitions immeasurably. The lighting by John Tees III was outstanding. The costumes by Orna Jackson and Iran were terrific.

Box Score:

Writing: 2

Directing: 2

Acting: 2

Set: 2

Costumes: 2

Lighting/Sound: 2

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Copyright 2000 Andres J. Wrath