note: entire contents copyright 2010 by Sheila Barth
Gina Gionfriddo’s award-winning contemporary play, “U.S. Drag,” which Apollinaire Theatre Company is currently presenting at Chelsea Theatre Works, is a provocative, satiric puzzlement.
Gionfriddo is the champion of weirdos, neurotics, and criminals. She penned Pulitzer Prize finalist psychological play, “Becky Shaw,” among others, and writes for TV series, “Law and Order;” its sister program, “Criminal Intent;” and “Cold Case”.
Hints are dropped throughout the one-act, 95-minute play, by its misguided menagerie of misfits, who are collectively lonely, angry, money-grasping, humane, and neurotic.
The plot involves two social climbers, Alison and Angela, who sashay through more perils than Pauline, hoping to cash in on the $100,000 reward posted for Ed, an elusive serial attacker.
Artistic Director-Director Danielle Fauteux Jacques and set designers have incorporated a geometric, angular set, symbolic of New York City’s skyline, its silvery gleam, and danger lurking at every pointed corner, to heighten the sardonic mystery’s environs. A jagged, triptych, silvery box-like structure divides the cast at times, doubling as a movie theater, an office, and more, while the key action occurs on stage, also divided into three, wall-less sites - an upscale Manhattan apartment, a community action meeting to keep people safe from a serial predator named Ed, a hotel room, and the girls‘ apartment they share with successful Wall Street investor, Ned, (Dain Geist), an intensely neurotic anti-social. Ned allowed the pretty women to live with him. providing they arrange parties so he can meet people.
Every character is flawed, some more than others. Their bizarre demeanor raises suspicion about Ed’s identity. Although James (Vladimir Noel) is a well-to-do crime researcher who’s gathering a petition to save a woman on Death Row (he feels she’s wrongly accused of murder), his loneliness and protectiveness appear weird.
Psychologically wounded author Christopher, (Satya Shridharan) who wants to be hugged so he can sleep, has his own theory about Ed - that he doesn’t exist. He thinks lonely women are self-inflicting wounds to gain notoriety and attention.
And do-gooder Evan (Gideon Bautista) just wants to keep women safe, through his non-profit, grass roots group, S.A.F.E., acronym for Stay Away from Ed.
Mary, (Alison Meirowitz McCarthy) Ed’s latest victim, joins the group as a spokesperson. However, Mary is also desperately seeking love and male companionship.
Alison, (Stephanie Friedman), and her equally attractive roommate, Angela, (Hannah Cranton) gave up their jobs running off copies at Conde Nast to seek fame and fortune in the Big Apple, but are unsuccessful until Angela is stabbed by Ed. Later, she is in the spotlight as a popular author, competing with Christopher for readers. Denise Drago rounds out the cast, portraying lesser roles as the manager, bartender, Janice, and Cristen, Christopher’s female counterpart.
It’s the words that aren’t spoken and actions not taken that provoke the audience into discussing the play with the cast and director afterward, at the post-show reception; but the mystery lingers, all the way home. That’s a good thing.
BOX INFO: One-act play by Gina Gionfriddo, directed by Danielle Fauteux Jacques, appearing through Dec. 5 at Chelsea Theatre Works, Apollinaire Theatre Company, 189 Winnisimmet St., Chelsea. Showtimes: Friday, Saturday, 8 p.m.; Sunday, Nov. 28,Dec. 5, at 3 p.m. Advance tickets, $30, $25; advance senior tickets, $20; student rush with ID, $15; Reception with actors follows all performances in the Gallery. Call 617-887-2336 or visit www.apollinairetheatre.com.