note: entire contents copyright 2006 by Carl A. Rossi
Sofie Petrowski; Mrs. Petrowski; Lily; Professor Bakial; Tush Man; Sonya Petrovna; Bill … Marta Rainer
UNACCUSTOMED TO MY NAME, a one-woman show written and performed by Marta Rainer, would make better sense if there were two other actors (ideally, one male; one female) to keep Ms. Rainer company, onstage, since pretending proves to be the life-blood of its heart. Sofie Petrowksi, Ms. Rainer’s heroine, is a Russian lit major living with her Polish émigré mother in Warsaw, New York (!) and is suffering an identity crisis not uncommon among college students: who is she, really, and where she is headed? Sofie’s dilemma is so formidable that she has locked herself inside her mother’s bathroom with her favorite books (Russian, natch) from which she delivers much of her sweet-natured tragicomic monologues. Ms. Rainer has written a vehicle for herself that uses her dark, handsome looks, throaty voice (perfect for Natasha Fatale-type accents) and rubber-faced mannerisms to the full and, like many a seasoned performance artist, she doles out clever, spin-on-a-dime characterizations to the point where you stop following her minimal plot and admire her technique, instead (always a hazard in a one-person show). Only when Sofie creates an alter ego for herself --- the worldly Russian émigré “Sonya Petrovna” --- and meets a Mr. Right who falls in love with her fabrication does UNACCUSTOMED TO MY NAME morph from stand-up to drama: if Ms. Rainer kept Sofie and “Sonya” all to herself and entrusted the remaining dramatis personae to others, Sofie’s fabrication would gain enormously as a brave, if foolish, attempt to force herself back into the world, especially the world of Men --- as is, “Sonya” is just another turn pulled out of mid-air. But I enjoyed Ms. Rainer’s company, nevertheless, and her creation and portrayal of Bill --- Sofie’s Mr. Right --- is a beautifully-realized portrait of a perfectly decent guy. Yes, Virginia, they still make Boys Next Door --- they just may not be playing in your neighborhood.