Polly's Panic Attack

By Sebastian Stuart
Directed by Everett Quinton
Antithetical Theatrical
La Mama E.T.C.
Non-union production (closed)
Review by Marshall Yaeger

The writer of this silly play is a master of non sequiturs and some mildly funny gags on the level of ``Demi Moore Doorknobs,'' or someone having ``the sex appeal of a road kill.''

The director not only staged the piece so that the actors could properly bump into each other, he practically exhausted America's taste for tackiness by arranging such theatrically funny sight gags as glowing lights within a towering wig, which could only be recognized in the darkness before a curtain call.

Described aptly as a ``black comedy,'' the matters touched upon, from ingrate children to the restless spiritual dejection stimulated by home video shopping, seemed to provoke the glint of real tears and desperate panic in the eyes and soul of the heroine, Polly, who was sometimes touchingly, sometimes hilariously, and always relentlessly played by Christopher Tanner in drag. Norma Desmond couldn't have done her better.

The other drag role--of Polly's vicious mother--was played with proper insouciance by Bobby Reed. Although the production's hairy-armed cross-dressing men shared more with English music hall than gay sensibility, there was no mistaking the fun poked at Catholic homophobia by Irene Shea (who could have earned a Ph.D. in nebbishness) and the formidable Eureka (wearing a crucifix almost large enough to perform its original function), who played lesbian lovers who happened to be nuns.

Back into Polly's home, where she is trying desperately to celebrate a merry and relaxing Christmas with her family (mixing Jesus with the eggnog), comes her pregnant, suicidal, bong-smoking, glue-sniffing, heroin-shooting, and vile daughter, played amusingly by Nicole Zaray, who was the best actor in the troupe-which isn't saying too much.

Richard Spore rounded out the cast as Polly's husband, courageously displaying his rail-thin body just for laughs, with practically no acting technique at all. He was perfect while declaiming an ode to puke.

Garry Hayes, who designed the overstuffed living room/bathroom set, and Chuck Hettinger, who decorated it, displayed an evil eye for what doesn't go.

The costumes by Ramona Poncé and especially the marvelously tacky wigs by Zsamira Sol Ronquillo were quite up to the fun being played on a mother and daughter who pretend not to hate each other's clothes while showing off such tasteless trinkets as a musical corsage or little Christmas packages worn as holiday earrings.

Lighting by Howard Thies and sound by Chris Plenge provided a few nice special effects, such as the pandemonium of a burglar alarm going off like a tilted pinball machine.

A perfect production for Ellen Stewart, ``La MaMa'' of New York's downtown theatre, the National Treasure who introduced it.

Box Score:
Writing 1
Directing 2
Acting 1
Set 2
Costumes 2
Lighting/Sound 1
Copyright 1996 Marshall Yaeger
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