THE DROWNING GIRLS ("Found Drown'd")
A Husband With A Tub!
Presented by the Strange Sun Theater at the Walkerspace, "The Drowning
Girls" is rapturous in its originality. While three wives - all once married at different times to the same villainous
man - take us on an approximately 75-minute tour through their doomed, brief encounters that all end up in cold-blooded murder,
you might find yourself entranced to near mesmerization - only then to be splashed by present-day realities. Ghoulish events
are still with us. All one has to do nowadays is simply check the 6 o'clock news - or the newspapers and internet, etc.
The bad guy in this tragic, darkly comic story (who we learn about through the dramatic recall of the ill-fated ghostly ladies)
was a deadly snake among snake-charmers, a certain George Joseph Smith. Based on true accounts occurring in Britain
about a century ago, "The Drowning Girls" has been neatly, economically penned three ways - thanks to the creative
trust of fellow authors Beth Graham, Daniela Vlaskalic and Charlie Tomlinson, It is a persuasive effort. The actors
- Nancy Rodriguez, Marissa Porto, and Kate Danson (as wives Margaret, Alice, and Bessie respectively) acquit themselves with
conviction and stand out impressively. And those old-fashioned bathtubs - they too leave their mark on a very sad tale.
The shower fixtures (with real running flowing water) as well as those sudden, haunting door knocks all make this dramatic
outing a worthy one. The costume design by Travis Alexandra Boatright, set and technical design by by Daryl Embry, music
composition by Jeff McSpadden, and lighting design by Michelle Tobias were in wonderful unison. All I can add here is that
everything - production-value wise - was in place, thanks to the deft and guiding hand of the director, Jessica Bashline,
and whose Director's Note in the program for "The Drowning Girls" about today's world and the safety issues
of those women who are often over-trusting when they need not be - was well put.
Playing until March 30 - at Walkerspace, 46 Walker Street; 646-801-7143
Produced at the Irish Repertory
Theatre on West 22nd Street, and performed with high energy by The Fallen Angel Theatre Company, "Airswimming"
is deftly written by Charlotte Jones. This is a haunting piece - even humorous at times, but nevertheless a memory play of
wounded spirits from the Awful - Days - Gone - By of English Inhumane Treatment (my self-created moniker), a time when judicial
and moral "judgement" was passed down on basically innocent people. Directed with solid understanding by John
Keating, "Airswimming" tells the decades-long story (done here in far less time than that of course) of two women,
Dora/Dorph and Persephone - both in their early 20's, played by Aedin Maloney and Rachel Pickup, respectively.
These two women's acting-out account of daily life in a Hospital for the Criminally Insane ("Saint Dymphna's
Institution") shows the dark recesses of burnt yearnings, layered beneath all the honest mistakes of younger days; they
were placed in said institution in the 1920s for immoral behavior - as I got it here - as per one's anti-social manners
of cigar smoking and fondness for the mannish ways of life (via military interests), and the other for having a baby out of
wedlock by a man many years older. They meet routinely whilst doing chores, and thereby regularly tell and listen to
each other's stories, while also engaging in other living fantasies; Persephone, for example, channels the voice and songs
of Doris Day - periwig and all - as her own escape valve (done excellently by Pickup). Maloney's Dora/Dorp is a brilliant
foil to Pickup's Persephone, with humorously blunt emotionality, as she too seeks to fend off the horrors of enclosed
boredom. Rightly so, because it will be decades past before they end up getting released for their so-called "insane"
ways. "Airswimming " is a cautionary tale of sorts - and should all make us wonder who is really insane?
It seems as though - in recent decades for sure, and on both sides of the Atlantic - the bloody instructions of the
abusive authorities have now returned to plague the authorities, themselves! In our own ongoing-age of continuous Church coverups
for the most despicable of deeds (such as sexual predation and criminal exploitation of under-aged victims). It is no small
wonder that houses of worship nowadays are far more empty for services than before, Church property is routinely sold off
to pay out legal penalties, and persons in position of responsibility to pursue prosecution and change things for the better
are very frequently mistrusted to fix things right. Instead, the intended inaction by Church authorities simply help
the modern day offenders to get off the hook. What we witness in "Airswimming" in contrast is the vile and petty
persecution of "insane" offenders like Dora/Dorph and Persephone by the higher-ups. "Airswimming", too,
is about friendship between two human beings trying their best to nurture their survival against great odds. It is is
a painful, persuasive reminder that injustice has been around for a very long time. I would be negligent if I failed to mention
that the wonderfully spartan set design speaks volumes to the humble existence of St. Dymphna's physical surroundings;
the sound design and lighting design, as well, make this important production worth every minute. (Closing Jan. 31)
- KEVIN MARTIN
BODEGA BAY at Abingdon Theatre
on West 36th Street
"Bodega Bay" is an almost intriguing play upon things Hitchcockian
(the master of suspense) in this longer than necessary darkly comic mix of characters clumsily penned by Elizabeth Karlin.
The main action involves a cross-country search by a certain Louise (the skillful Susan Louise O'Connor) in search of
her mother who abandoned her and her brother a decade and five years prior, and has gone west, to Robert Donat Land. (Or is
it Tippi Hedrin Land)? Anyway, searching for someone mysteriously gone is a Hitchcock motif. There's an implication that
Louise's Mom was a barfly-alky of sorts, and that her marriage was not so happy. That seems to be the gist of it.
Having said that, the play survives well enough due to the smart, steady hand of director Sturgis Warner. Doing a lengthy
two hours and thirty plus minutes of a whirling script could fall easily awry, but here Warner keeps it all moving, uphill
at times, but he gets it done with confidence, and smoothly at that. The play's play on the Hitchcock genre of film and
film scripts is appealing in a way - but - again, this evening could have dropped 20 minutes or more, making the director's
task more rewarding - for the audience in particular. And yet the cast is good, with no exceptions. The most fleshed out of
the characters was Louise. Beside that, the very small box-like space for "Bodega Bay" most certainly restricted
the production's larger promise, which probably accounted for the needed fade-outs for scene after scene transitioning.
- KEVIN MARTIN