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David's Redhaired Death/Crazy Little Thing




Bailiwick Repertory

There's a common but fallacious assumption that two concurrent events must be somehow connected. In Sherry Kramer's extraordinary David's Redhaired Death, Jean receives the news of her beloved brother's death at virtually the same moment that she consummates her obsessive romance with the enchanting Marilyn, so the two events are inextricably linked in her memory.

We don't discover this right away, however. Kramer's play is like a puzzle: after slowly and painstakingly connecting a series of dots, one uncovers an integrated image out of what appeared to be chaos. Memory need not proceed linearly or at a uniform rate, and so we watch as Jean desperately lingers in memory over the pleasant details of her introduction to Marilyn, who embodies everything that she longs to be. (One could even make the case that Marilyn is the woman Jean might have become had her spiritual growth not been stunted by the traumatic loss of her brother.) Every similarity between Jean and Marilyn--their childhood hurts, their cigarette brands, their red hair (though Jean's is dyed)--reinforces the magic of their mutually narcissistic courtship. Their vow to color their hair the same unnatural shade takes on the gravity of a blood oath, they utter advertising slogans as flirtatious repartee, and Jean's drive to Marilyn's house becomes a stygian journey in search of a blissful haven. But throughout Jean's dogged evasion of the instant when her greatest sorrow and her greatest joy clashed, we hear the voice of Marilyn reminding her that only when she completes her chronicle and puts the past behind her can they be reunited.

The chief challenge of this kind of mosaic narrative is to hold the audience's attention until a coherent thread is apparent, and Bailiwick Repertory succeeds magnificently. Susan V. Booth's direction is sharp-edged and her choreography clever--especially for the two factotums (played with deadpan humor by Rafer Weigel and Robert J. Bailey II) who provide props, personnel, and musical punctuation. LaVonne Byers as Marilyn and Adrianne Cury as Jean give tightly focused performances--and Cury is required to talk for at least 75 of the play's 90 minutes, while smoking yet. David Jackson Cushing has provided a surreal set with what seems a half-acre of rose-hued, glitter-strewn bed. Lynda White's imaginative properties (which include oil portraits of Ronald McDonald in the style of the great masters), Michele Friedman-Siler's sensual costumes, and William Underwood's delicate mood music also contribute. In fact all work together to fulfill the promise of this well-charted trail through the psyche's labyrinth.


Circle Theatre

There's nothing original or risk-taking about Paula Berg's Crazy Little Thing, however, a soporifically predictable revue "celebrating our American obsession with off-beat romance." A series of blackout monologues informs us that--gasp!--fairy-tale heroines are not good role models for modern women, that Studs is a stupid show, that some men are puzzled by women's dual nature (only two sides?), and that people who read the National Enquirer are fascinated with celebrities' love lives. One extended sketch deals with a disgruntled wife who puts piranhas--casually purchased at the local pet store, though such sales are not legal in the United States--into her husband's bath to punish him for being a bore. Another involves a new-age priestess, her nudnick son, his ex-girlfriend, an effete gerontophile, a miserly invalid landlord, and a hyperreligious nurse.

With the exception of a rather sweet sketch in which Dean Kharasch and Nicole L. Chapin play a pair of nervous actors before an audition, the show seems curiously unfinished. Facile endings have been tacked onto sketches for no apparent reason but to make them conform to the evening's theme (articulated in the opening song, "Love Makes You Stupid"). The ragged improv-comedy quality of the performances is heightened by the actors' propensity to pace about the small stage waving their arms aimlessly and speaking in loud, shrill voices (and comic New York accents, though the setting is supposedly Chicago). This show has its moments--notably a catchy little ditty about strolling up Michigan Avenue that would make a wonderful commercial for the tourism board--but they're all but lost in the froth of theatrical fizz.

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