The Ridiculous Theatrical Company has been marked by genius from its beginning under the late Charles Ludlum to more recent shows under heir Everett Quinton. The balance between travesty and tragedy has generally been judged with consummate skill. A boldly played drag character can have the audience roaring with laughter one instant, and wiping tears away the next. Somehow, Phaedra seldom reached either extreme. The classical part of the show was played fairly straight, exaggerated enough to be distancing but not wild enough to be funny. The opening diner sequence was genuinely comical, and did what only humor can: by exaggerating the human condition, it told the truth about it.
When the play-in-a-play reaches its inexorably tragic conclusion, the show simply ends. For dramatic symmetry and to make the ending less abrupt, it would have been better to return to the diner. Surely Lily would have some sharp and cogent comment to make about Phaedra. If anybody could put such a tragedy of lust, deception and death into perspective, this worldly-wise broad could. As it is, Phaedra is profoundly unsatisfying. Everett Quinton worked extremely hard, but the final product was neither one thing nor another. It was often on the edge of working, but never quite came together. As always, Quinton was fascinating to watch. He is a talent whose mobile face and constantly moving body give life to his creations. Unfortunately, in this case, the creations -- or the ideas behind them -- seemed indistinct. This was a flawed but not uninteresting show, but it served merely to hint what Quinton (and this concept) could offer.
Sets (designed by Rue Catorz) and costumes (Larry McLeon, wigs & make-up Zsamira Ronquillo) at the Ridiculous continued to be brilliant feats of low-budget magic. Percussion and sound by Michael Van Meter added extra dimension to the setting, which was decorated with a flock of white foam wig stands hung from the ceiling. These took on a remarkable life when lit with colored lights (Cordelia Aitkin). The featureless heads were a stroke of genius; they served as silent witness to the events, and acted as stand-ins for patrons of the diner, the chorus, and other minor characters. They even contributed a classical-meets-modern effect to the production without belaboring the point.
Copyright 1996 Maya T. Amis
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