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A CurtainUp Review

I think I'm beautiful. . .I think I have a certain consumptive charisma—Gerard, on how he looks with AIDS in the later stages of the disease.

Amy Broder and Megan Hill in Sin
(l-r) Amy Broder and Megan Hill
(Photo: John Quilty)
Combine two parts Dr. Phil and one part medieval mystery play, shake well, pour into a cold glass and you've got Wendy McLeod's Sin.

Now in a pocket-sized production Sin is a play based on a simple conceit. Make characters out of each of the seven deadly sins—lust, wrath, gluttony, pride, greed, envy and sloth for those of you who've forgotten your catechism—and then send a central heroine to meet each of them and learn how to sin a little more. It's an almost tired theme: Uptight, career oriented woman needs to let her hair down, blah, blah. But that's what makes Sin such a perfect contemporary morality play.

Morality plays of the medieval era also had simple themes that reflected the moral atmosphere of their times. Similarly, McLeod's work reflects the 1994 to about 1989 time in which it was written. It is a fantastic snapshot of mid-nineties reflections on the excesses of the 80's and the burgeoning pop psychology that would turn into daytime television later in the decade.

Our heroine, "Avery Bly On High," (Megan Hill) is a "traffic watcher" in San Francisco, who literally looks down on everyone else. The plot entails a brief meeting with her estranged alcoholic husband (a settled, comfortable Carter Roy), a blind date with a power broker (Kelly Miller in a deliciously smarmy turn) and various other encounters with personified sins.

The San Francisco earthquake, the fulcrum of the action, takes place right before intermission and sends Avery back through each of the sins in the second act. Even if her psychological insight and tiny release into sin at the end is horribly predictable, it's still somehow satisfying as a reinforcement of cultural standards, just like its medieval counterpart.

The Bohemian Archaeology production has done an admirable job of making most of the "sins" fully-fleshed characters. Amy Broder as the gluttonous Helen, Henry Capaln as Fred, Avery's envious helicopter co-occupant, and Douglas Scott Sorenson as the vain Gerard are particularly successful. Broder's sweatsuit clad performance is timed perfectly and has a lived-in quality that helps you understand how she came to be in her situation. Caplan is remarkably believable in his jealous fits and wears polyester like none other. Sorenson's performance as Avery's AIDS patient brother is vividly authentic and thankfully manages to stay above the stereotype. The fragile balance between highlighting the sin and allowing it to consume the character is easily lost, however, as seen in this portrayal of the overly loud "angry" boss Jason (Christopher Armond). Even his pop psychology explanations for his wrathful nature fail to make up for his excessive, albeit virtuosic, contortions that seem to drag on for hours.

Megan Hill does an adequate job in a remarkably difficult role. In the end she's trying too hard to show the audience how uptight Avery is and not actually embodying the woman stuck in that pathetically colored high-neck blouse.

MacLeod's dialogue is remarkably clear yet natural. The action trips along at a pleasant rate, even though it descends into strangely timed soul searching at the end.

Roberta Berman's low budget set is functional and Ethan Kaplan's lighting goes a long way toward creating the various scenarios. Allison Choi Braun's costumes are spot on, from the above-mentioned blouse to Jason's perfectly tailored suit.

Even with its almost museum-like accuracy in capturing some aspects of the eighties, MacLeod's work remains engaging as a meditation of what it means to live and sin. After all, isn't Avery herself guilty of each of the sins even before she gives into temptations? There's a certain kind of gluttony in obsessively not eating, pride in affected humility and lust in lurid chastity. Sin is deceitful and complex, but the theatrical heart of MacLeod's work makes what could easily be a boring sermon into an enjoyable romp through contemporary morality.

Written by Wendy MacLeod
Directed by Jordana Kritzer
Cast: Megan Hill (Avery), Collin MacKenzie Smith (Man), Carter Roy (Michael), Kelly Miller (Date), Amy Broder (Helen), Henry Caplan (Fred), Christopher Armond (Jason), Douglas Scott Sorenson (Gerard)
Scenic Design: Roberta Berman
Lighting Design: Ethan Kaplan
Costume Design: Allison Choi Braun
Running Time: 2 hours including one 10 minute intermission
Bohemian Archaeology at the Abingdon Theater, 312 W. 36th St. 212.868.4444
From 7/12/07 to 7/29/07; opening 7/24/07
Performances: Tuesday-Saturday 8:00pm; Sunday 3:00pm
Tickets: $18.00
Reviewed by Summer Banks on 7/24/07
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