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LETTERS TO EDITOR
by Les Gutman
When I reviewed Fornes' short play, "Mud," in 1999, I referred to the central character's "journey of self-discovery [that] takes place on a sexual battlefield". Molly's Dream treads in the same terrain, although illumination (for character or audience) is elusive.
When we meet Molly (Bo Corre), she's not dreaming. She drags into her job as a bar waitress, lumbers through her set-up routine and then plops on a bar stool to read a story in a magazine. As a young man (Dominic Bogart) peeks into the bar, she fades into sleep. Seventy-five minutes later, she will wake up, the man will have entered the bar, ordered a drink from the bartender, consumed it, and left. She won't have uttered a word. That's the frame, and it's not very gilded.
The dreamscape transports us into familiar Fornesian absurdity. As the cynical bartender, Mack (Matthew Maher), presides, the young man reappears in the bar as a white-clad Don Juan figure, Jim, with a quintet of women quite literally in tow. (The are called the Hanging Women, and are played by Erin Farrell, Shannon Fitzgerald, Jessica Hency, Debra Wassum and Casey Wilson.) Soon, a tall, handsome cowboy, John (Patrick Boll), wanders in and alters the sexual equation. Finally, a womanchild named Alberta (Toi Perkins), she's twenty-seven but acts as if she's Shirley Temple, captures John's attention. What follows is a meditation of sorts on sexual attraction and rejection, and the blur between reality and pose. During its course, Molly will become Marlene Dietrich, John will morph into Dracula and then Superman, and Alberta will become a sex symbol of your choice. John's magnetic pull will prove stronger than Jim's; Molly and Jim will part company in a sad, unrequited state.
We don't know enough about Molly to attach to her plight, and the unfocused energy of the dream doesn't help. Ms. Fornes leaves us in a puddle, her active imagination neglecting to engage us with anything of depth. What's outside is bare, and what's within is untethered. What we are left with is essentially a trifle. The playwright Marsha Norman has called dreams "illustrations from the book your soul is writing about you". If so, what we have here is in the nature of a cartoon.
Daniel Aukin has rotated the usual configuration at Soho Rep, so that a long bar spans what is normally the stage's depth. Its design by Louisa Thompson, who also designed the effective costumes, is so realistic that, as we enter, we wonder if we've made a wrong turn into a corner bar. Aukin is clearly having fun here, and it's infectious. Ms. Fornes' absurdities grant him license to play, and he does. Entrances are exaggerated, emotions are elongated and characters are prone to affecting hyperbolic personalities.
Musical theater always demands a certain level of belief suspension (real people are not prone to break into song mid-thought), but never more so than here. The effect adds fuel wonderfully to Aukin's fire; David Neumann's choreography and Maury Loeb's music (finely performed by an ensemble of three) sustains it.
Corre and Bogart don't quite hit the mark as Molly and Jim, Boll gets a lot closer as the swaggering John, and Maher is right on target as Mack the bartender, but it's Ms. Perkins who steals the show. Her singing and dancing are exceeded only by the facility of her transformation. We are sufficiently mesmerized that it's only later that we ask, "What's she doing here?"
LINKS TO REVIEWS OF OTHER PLAYS BY MS. FORNES
The Summer in Gossensass
"Mud" and "Drowning"
Enter The Night
Terra Incognita (opera libretto)
Mendes at the Donmar
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers
The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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