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|A CurtainUp Review
By Jenny Sandman
Working for tips is usually an ugly and humbling experience, especially when your livelihood is dependent upon other people's (often nonexistent) generosity. But working as a bathroom attendant is an especially ignoble tip-dependent job.
In Wreckio Ensemble's new collaboration piece, Wrestling Porcelain, Cecy (Dechelle Damien) is a lonely Cuban restroom attendant in a trendy New York restaurant. She washes her patrons' hands and cleans up after them, kowtowing to the bitchy management, as the customers consistently stiff her for a tip and help themselves to handfuls of mints. While she attempts to make polite small talk and keep things tidy, she cultivates a mysterious relationship with a mysterious door. It is rumored the owner's fifth wife will one day come through that door, but what it leads to, no one knows. And the entire staff is dying of curiosity.
Cecy bears her indignity well. Performed by four members of the Wreckio Ensemble, the other three portray 24 different women (well, 23 women and one drag queen). It's often funny, mostly thought-provoking, and well-acted. However, what little story there is the production style has stretched too thin. The play is punctuated with weird slow-mo interludes that feature interesting and original sound design, but these have little to do with the rest of the show. They're more atmospheric than anything, and are repeated a number of times. These interludes are half interpretive dance and though inventive, and sometimes funny, they're rarely engaging. Essentially they serve to stretch out the play to 80 minutes which would otherwise run closer to 45 minutes -- which wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing.
But the lively actresses do manage to keep the audience's attention. Damien, despite being the only actress playing a single role, is the most versatile of the bunch. The other characters are essentially stereotypes, and Randi Berry, Michelle Diaz and Karly Maurer rightly play them as such. But Damien turns Cecy --a weary, downtrodden, aging émigré-- into a hopeful, positive woman.
Wreckio's made better use of the Ontological than its more regular resident, Richard Foreman, usually does. While his stages feel cramped (though purposefully so), this set feels much more spacious. It's actually more spacious than any Manhattan restroom would ever , eanbling the women to sit down without knocking their knees against the door of the stall. Crossing to the sink involves several steps. Would that we all could use such a bathroom, with as patient and enduring attendant as Cecy.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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Mendes at the Donmar
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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