Not so fast


The Speed Queen


From an original novel written by Stewart O’Nan

Adapted by Anne Stockton

Directed by Austin Pendleton

Midtown International Theatre Festival ( for showtimes)

Workshop Jewel Box Theater, 312 W. 36th Street, 4th Floor

Equity showcase (closes August 5, 2007)

Review by Sean Michael O’Donnell

The Speed Queen is an ambitious undertaking. Based upon the novel by Stewart O’Nan, it has been adapted for the stage by Anne Stockton, who also stars as the title character. Stockton assumes the nearly impossible task of taking what is essentially a 200-page monologue and condensing it into a very sparse seventy-minute stage show. And while Stockton’s attempt is admirable in its scope, she ultimately succeeds only in creating a one-dimensional vanity piece devoid of character or conflict.

The play opens with Marjorie Standford on death row. Having embarked on a drug-fueled crime spree that resulted in the murders of eight people, Marjorie now finds herself in an Oklahoma prison on the eve of her execution. The play traces Marjorie’s final hours as she recounts her story of sex, drugs and murder via a tape recorder to an unseen Stephen King. While King hopes to write a novel based on the crimes, Marjorie hopes to set the record straight.

O’Nan’s novel is a richly drawn character study of a cunning sociopath, but Stockton’s adaptation of The Speed Queen is far too superficial and much is lost in translation as the complexities of the character are never fully realized on the stage. Stockton relies too heavily on her audience having read the book, rushing details and muddying plot points. As a result, the horrors of Marjorie’s actions are rendered insignificant while the fascinating aspect of the character – her humanity - never surfaces.

Director Austin Pendleton offers no help with his decidedly hands-off approach. His ineffective staging undermines Stockton at every turn and his rare moments of blocking prove awkward and obtrusive. But perhaps his most egregious error is in his decision to leave Stockton to her own devices. Having adapted the play, she indulges in her singular vision with no clear concept of the bigger picture. Stockton is an appealing performer with a passion for the material, but without guidance she is awash in a sea of bad choices. For a story with so much possibility, the end result is little more than a series of missed opportunities.


Box Score:


Writing: 1

Directing: 1

Acting: 0

Sets: 0

Costumes: 1

Lighting/Sound: 1


Copyright 2007 Sean Michael O’Donnell


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