Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Essential Self-Defense"

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note: entire contents copyright 2008 by Beverly Creasey

Edgy Cautionary Tale

Reviewed by Beverly Creasey

If you saw The Gurnet Theatre Project’s THIS IS OUR YOUTH last year, you know they can handle quirky material…and it doesn’t get any more quirky than Adam Rapp’s ESSENTIAL SELF-DEFENSE----which they dramatize with aplomb.

In the forties, they didn’t think much about the consequences of the atomic bomb. In the ‘50s they told us we could hide from radiation under our desks. It took a while but we realized they were oh, so wrong… wrong and corrupt and now we know they’re bankrupt, morally and financially.

We’re older and wiser but what if we were young? After we baby boomers use up social security, they say there won’t be any left for future generations. If I were young, I’d be plenty worried. In ESSENTIAL SELF-DEFENSE (playing at the BCA through June 28th) Rapp captures the fear and paranoia which stalks all of us, but most of all, the young people for whom the future certainly means uncontrollable global warming, rampant disease, more terrorist attacks and an even greater divide between the haves and have-nots.

Rapp writes hilarious dialogue for characters in strange situations, like the cutie pie (Chelsea Cipolla) who is learning self-defense at one of those places where women run kicking and screaming at a padded man (Adam Garcia). Not only does she beat him up, she falls for him. It isn’t easy. He’s a bit remote…and preoccupied…and leery of “corporate discourse,” not to mention word order. Garcia makes the paranoid loner goofily charming and it’s easy to see why a sweet girl would think she could open him up. Did I mention there’s a rock band on stage? And they’re kickin’!

Director Brian C. Fahey stresses the eccentricity in the script, getting witty, wacky performances from Garcia, Cipolla, Rachel Hunt as the hostess with the mostest at an original-song-only karaoke club and from Foster Johns as a wild Russian poet. Brett Marks is very scary as the butcher whose bark is worse than his handshake. Everyone in the production makes ESSENTIAL SELF-DEFENSE well, essential to see.

"Essential Self-Defense" (13 - 28 June)
@ Boston Center for The Arts, 539 Tremont Street, BOSTON MA
1 (617)933-8600

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide