Greek food warmed over


Performed and Adapted by Everett Quinton
Directed by Bill Nobes
Ridiculous Theatrical Company
Theatre for the New City
155 First Avenue (307-4100)
Non-union production (closes Sept. 29)
Review by Maya T. Amis

Everett Quinton delightfully portrayed a friendly but overextended waitress in a Greek diner. Dressed in a camouflage mini-skirt, Lily takes orders, heckles the cook and still has time to tease her regulars. When a young patron has to study a play, she offers to help, despite having no expertise at all. As Lily gets into the play, she disappears and becomes the characters. Exchanging mini for camouflage draperies, and removing Lily's towering, glittering edifice of a wig, Quinton played each character with exhausting intensity and occasional flashes of brilliance. All were over-the-top, and while the loud histrionics were sometimes effective, especially in scenes of insanity and extreme emotion, there was never any respite. The lack of definition of the characters was a major problem. Since Quinton must effect lightning transitions while carrying on conversations with himself, there must be clear differences between the frantic, lustful insanity of Phaedra, the worried devotion of the nurse, and the sad confusion of Phaedra's husband, Theseus. Unfortunately, these distinctions were often lost in the frenetic pace, leading to confusion.

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.

Box Score:
Writing 1
Directing 1
Acting 1
Set 2
Costumes 2
Lighting/Sound 2
Copyright 1996 Maya T. Amis

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