Mass Murderers and Serial Killers

By Larry Myers
Directed by Theo Polites
Next Step Productions & RWM Playwrights Lab
The Palladium
124 East 14th Street (473-7171)
Non-union production (open-ended run)
Review by Maya T. Amis

These 11 monologues present a series of characters finding ways, healthy or otherwise, of coping with the '90s. The vignettes open a brief window into the lives of often disturbing people and offer actors an excellent opportunity to go all out to create characters in a short time.

The director came up with ways to merge each piece into the last almost seamlessly, thus giving a flow that would otherwise be missing. While each piece is a monologue, there was often another actor on stage, used as silent interviewer, object of devotion, or even corpse. There was no set, merely a table and chairs at the back of an open space surrounded by tables and more couches occupied by the audience.

Wonderly White prowled the room as a cheery dominatrix with a story of flawed empowerment in "Another Catwoman."

Verl John Hite was a fidgety, nervous loser trying to come to grips with having woken up from a drunk minus a kidney. The piece, "Slanted Room," was given an extraordinarily unsettling edge by being spoken to a woman's corpse. Hite was genuinely creepy as he talked to it and even caressed the body. The monologue does not really mention that its subject is a killer, but that added element was very effective.

Alex Tufel was sweet and sincere as "Harry of Hollywood," a man driven to being philosophical despite himself, a former child star somewhat bemused at finding himself a "hopelessly heterosexual hairdresser."

"Spelling Euripides," inspired by the recent Jenny Jones Show gay murder, imagines an interview with the killer. Seth Emers portrayed him as a crude, working-class guy remembering the acute pain of his humiliation on the show. He has no fight left but also no feeling of guilt.

Kerry Aissa talked directly to the audience, apparently expecting a response, and advised them to try his trick of imagining himself in "Florida" by using a beach chair, some sand, and "sense memory."

Debra Caamano played "The Poetess" as an enthusiastic mentor with a taste for seduction. Her abrupt transition from laughable victim to confident victimizer was another performance that was both troubling and interesting.

The second half of the evening opened with Chadwick Brown as a "Nurse" who displayed both tenderness and ruthlessness to his patients in a meditation on power and mercy

"Video Queen" is a violently anti-male lesbian rant that was delivered in shrieks and growls by Kari Harendorf. Marshall B. Johnson was an opera queen who escapes the bitterness of being an apartment cleaner by listening to music. Blessedly, he avoided the worst sort of gay stereotyping, although he got very close at times. A young woman (Diana Shaw) finds the truth in Court TV and gossip columns and finds freedom (and maybe love) via "The Rollerblade." Finally, Dino Simco appeared as a young yuppy who delivers a soliloquy on the confusions of modern life in "Headhunter."

All the performances were good, with some extremely unsettling and others unexpectedly sweet. The most complex were both. All these characters seemed believable in an odd sort of way, although many were people you would not like to meet. Whether from emotional overload or the arrangement of the pieces, the last few monologues seemed less effective than most of the others. These make for a demanding evening; pacing and placement are paramount.

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

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