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Writing for CurtainUp NYC Weather
|A CurtainUp Review
Y York's Krisit, which is having its world premiere at Primary Stages, is a comedy focusing on practically everybody's obsession with youth. Face lifts, lyposuction, eye tucks hair implants -- anything goes in the battle against wrinkles, baldness and sagging middles. The play skewers the youth mania in an absurdist mode that's amusing, if familiar, when it works; pretty awful when it doesn't.
Ms. York has peopled her play with three citizens of the citadel of glamour where everybody lies about their age in their quest for being part of "the newest, youngest thing." Melia Bensussen is in charge of shepherding them through the events that begin and end in a grand bathtub in a grand bathroom of the central character's home.
That main character is the seventy-five year-old film actress Krisit (Scotty Bloch) who has been a total recluse for twenty-five years. She insists that she wanted to retire while at the top of her game. The truth of the matter is that her retirement was precipitated by a young director's rejection of her romantic overtures and a critic's devastating putdown of what was actually her finest performance as "an aging starlet's accidentally filmed hot flashes."
As Krisit exists in a luxurious limbo, Peter (Larry Pine), the young director from her past who's now himself fifty (though just saying fifty sends him into a paroxym of pain) is desperate to unblock his blocked career. That translates into a proposed film that obviously borrows bits and pieces from his first marriage while reaching out to an audience that's the same age as his new young wife. Tracy (the talked about but unseen wife #2) has given him not so subtle hints that his love handles are less pleasing than her friends' tight Abs which has caused Peter to endure lyposuction (on top of a torturous hair weaving process, and don't ask what other procedures). For good measure, he also relies on a crystal to see him through his efforts to undo his past mistakes.
To bring the estranged recluse and the fire-in-the-belly aging director together, there's Lulu (Jessica Stone), masquerading as Krisit's maid but actually working for Leonard, an unseen producer whose job she covets. Lulu is thirty-three pretending to be twenty-six and already has had an eye tuck. She is convinced that luring lure Krisit out of retirement to be in Peter's film will be her ticket to Hollywood heaven -- specifically a spot on "the most important people under thirty-five list" by way of what she's sure will be a "list making" film.
The intensity with which many of us pursue whatever is vibrant and new (Peter and Lulu) or, conversely, to escape the sting of fading careers and looks (Krisit) is indeed preposterous enough to support the absurdist approach to telling this story. However, at times York's absurdism is just plain bad taste and silliness -- especially the opening and closing bathtub scenes with their dialogue about Krisit's bladder functions. The more realistic action in a Hollywood bar is sandwiched between these bookend scenes. These include some amusing interchanges, first between Peter and Lulu and then between Peter and Krisit.
The Peter-Lulu meeting targets Hollywood mores (e.g., Lulu tells Peter that her pinchitting for Leonard is a way to save him from "the humiliation factor" that could follow his being seen discussing a deal that might not materialize) and the unspooling of Peter's history with Krisit and his two wives. The Peter- Krisit meeting pits Peter's belief in doing anything to ward off age induced obsolescence against Krisit's conviction that he should allow himself to be fat, bald and free from the "anonymous thinkers" he is living his life to please. "Don't you see?" she pleads, "we have assigned" them this power. . ."
Scotty Bloch, one of Off-Broadway's most reliably enjoyable character actresses, is miscast in this Gloria Swanson type role. Besides lacking the grandeur she seems too often to confuse surreal with shrill. Larry Pine, another seasoned pro who was last paired to good advantage with Ms. Bloch in the late Harry Kondoleon's Saved Or Destroyed also tends to be too loud, though he does a good job in conveying Peter's angst and ambition. Jessica Stone exhibits nice comic timing in the most understated of the three parts.
James Noone's garishly surreal art deco bathtub set also accommodates the meetings in the bar. Neither Krisit's home or the bar seem quite up the program description of "grand." Claudia Stephens seems to have had a good time desiging a combination parlor maid-smart Hollywood career woman outfit for Lulu and faux nude body suit for Krisit.
When all is said and done, as Peter's crystal never makes it to the bright pink glow of success, neither does Ms. York's play.