|The exquisite cast - photo: Alison Luntz.|
So I thought I was safe from any heavy-duty pans (at least until I squeeze my way into Porgy and Bess, if I can), but here I've got the same problem with a fringe show, Claudia Dey's Trout Stanley from Exquisite Corps Theatre. Actually, this is one of those times I wish I could target separate reviews to separate readerships. One such audience might be composed entirely of casting directors, for instance, and to them I would say -
Calling all casting directors! High-tail it immediately to Trout Stanley, from Exquisite Corps at the Factory Theater, where you will discover not one but three exciting new comic talents you will want to audition immediately! (I'm not kidding!!)
But then there's the play itself. And I'm afraid to my audience of script readers and play development types, I'd have to say: - oh well, let's not even go there. Why not just write the pan yourself, in the inimitably vicious style of Thomas Garvey? It should include the words "utterly derivative," "John Guare," "Christopher Durang," and "in a broken blender." Also "too long by half," and other irritated, over-articulate stuff.
Although I was most irritated, I confess, by the chasm between the exquisite cast at Exquisite Corps and their material. I know there's no real-time relationship between author and actor, but oddly, it feels that way during this performance, as if playwright Claudia Dey were sadistically setting up no-win situations for her stars, who plunge into her deadly pseudo-dramatic contraptions anyway, like the victims in Saw. The thing is, time and again, they almost make it out alive - they're brilliant, really they are; and at first, when you're feeling forgiving, they do half-convince you the script has some value. You think to yourself, "Well, that was kind of funny," or "Well, that's not exactly like the last two 'surreal' comedies I saw - maybe there's something here!" But alas, by the end, you're only praying for the show to end, for the actors' sake as well as your own; you want them to be able to move on to better things as soon as possible.
Still, there are those performances - if I were still on the IRNEs, this small ensemble would be on my short list for an award. Becky Webber, as the agoraphobic lead, Sugar Ducharme, deploys a delicate welter of tics and insecurities in a performance that's miles beyond what she offered in Opus at the New Rep a year or so ago. She was almost bested, however, by her co-star, Kathryn Lynch, who is literally a one-woman riot as Sugar's hot-pants-clad, man-roping, trash-collecting twin, Grace (it's typical of this play's obviousness that the white-trash Grace should actually be a trash lady). Where Webber is all small-scale control, Lynch is a brassy explosion of hormones and who knows what else, and they play off each other like a dream. Meanwhile, as the eponymous Trout, who upsets the none-too-delicate balance of the sisters' lives, newcomer Sean George hasn't come up with quite as much detail or depth - but he's just a natural, trust me, one of those actors whose spontaneous timing can make even this level of forced whimsy kind of work; you're happy to just watch him, minute by minute, and forget about whatever the hell it is he's saying.
There's solid talent on display elsewhere in the production, too. Director Louisa Richards clearly knows what she's doing, and designers Sean Coté (set), Ian King (lighting), and Bob Mussett (sound) all pull off several tricks on a shoestring. Why these clever folks devoted the last few weeks of their lives to Trout Stanley, I can't imagine; that's probably a solid topic for a truly surreal comedy right there.