'Gator wrestling

Green Skin

By Barbara Lhota and Ira Brodsky
Directed by Len Duckman
Theatre Asylum
The Producer's Club
Equity showcase (closed)
Review by John Chatterton

Green Skin showed off (for five days only) a fine company of actors who deserve more attention.

The play in question concerns two young sisters (Jennifer Tulchin as Grace Miles and Maryellen Rowlett as Vickie) who share a common hallucination - an alligator (Paul Tavianini). The 'gator started out in Grace's throat, before Vickie stole him; he now appears constantly to Vickie - notably when she is having sex with a new boyfriend (Len Duckman), who gets freaked when Vickie converses angrily with the invisible reptile.

This story is really about incest; the hallucinatory reptile is a result of Daddy (Joseph J. Menino)'s secret seduction of Grace, his favorite, by promising her a trip to Florida if she won't tell about their at first seemingly innocent games. Just as her repression of the incest causes her personality (and, in turn, Vickie's) to fragment, so, by story's end, as they both undergo the healing process of communication, they come to understand and accept what happened to them and turn the spotlight of their hatred on Daddy instead of on themselves.

The chief strength of the production was the clarity and energy of characterizations, supported by matching qualities in direction. It would be easy to say that the actors were well-cast, except that Asylum's productions always seem well-cast - more a sign of being well-directed and well-acted. Tulchin and Rowell perfectly offset each other as the good and bad sisters; Menino as the tweedy, uptight Dad hid his molesting past behind rationality and "love" for his favorite daughter; and Duckman, as Vickie's flaky boyfriend (Grace had fired him from her health-care temp agency for sleeping with a psychiatric patient!), and Tavianini, as the 'gator and as Grace's dependent ex, offered more than enjoyable cameos. In addition, Catherine Dowling, as Daddy's new wife, was amusing as the New Age New Woman, unafraid of any topic; Brian J. Coffey played Grace's exploitative boss with sleazy charm (as well as a moving man with whom Vickie plays head-games, with confused doltishness); and Lisa Messinger took care of all the remaining female parts, including without limitation an Oprahlike talk-show host and a swinging concierge. Robert Bruce McIntosh was on the money as Grace's understanding, if not very sexy, new boyfriend.

The staging was as fluid as a play with so many scene changes could be - meaning that everything stopped every five minutes while the cast rearranged the chairs and changed places. While ostensibly being produced with the minimum scenery (a bunch of chairs and some signs indicating act breaks, with voice-over stage directions) so as to focus on the play, the staging showed how much a full production would have focused on the problems of changing scenery. Or is such a play to live only in the limbo between full production and staged reading? There's nothing wrong with that - readers of the Samuel French catalog crave such fare. But even so, such frequent suspensions of the action might only cause the audience to unsuspend its disbelief and look at the more obvious psychological mechanics of the piece, thus evading the spell so well-cast by the actors.

(The uncredited sound design, starting with children's songs and graduating to Elvis, was a treat.)

Box Score:
Writing 1
Directing 2
Acting 2
Set 1
Costumes 1
Lighting/Sound 1

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Copyright 1997 John Chatterton