Thursday, May 07, 2009

Pretty Theft

Photo/Isaiah Tanenbaum

In the broad scheme of things, everything is stolen from us: our beauty, our senses, our minds. The far more specific now of Adam Szymkowicz's latest play, Pretty Theft, dares to show us--elegantly--what's left behind after such robberies. It tempts and taunts us by dangling Allegra (Marnie Schulenburg) before us: a truly innocent young girl, who will surely be the victim of this show. The question, then, is what will be left of her.

Aside from a lack of confidence (we see her fail as a ballerina), Allegra serves as a benchmark to model the other characters against. Her mother (Cotton Wright) has lost her youth, and cares for little other than the television. (And why should she care for her deadbeat husband, now, at last, hospitalized?) Her boyfriend, Bobby (Zack Robidas), is a demanding, insensitive prick. As for friends, she doesn't have any, which makes her desperate enough for her former classmate Suzy's (Maria Portman Kelly) purposes (which, ironically, actually turns out to be her own need of friends, having slept around with the boyfriends of all her others). Allegra winds up working at a psychiatric home, where she meets Joe (Brian Pracht), an autistic who happens to be a genius handyman, a man who truly has lost everything, and who now attempts to cling to it in a box. Under the dreamlike glow of these nested situations, Szymkowicz draws out the endearing nature of their flaws, especially the roguish Marco (Todd d'Amour), who--"elsewhere"--seduces a dead-end waitress (Candice Holdorf) with deadpan lines like "You ever been kidnapped?"

Angela Astle's direction--particularly her dream sequences and smooth transitions between the many layers of the plot--keeps the show "pretty." But what delivers Pretty Theft is the varied tone of the script, from Bobby's pompous "My kiss is devastating" to Suzy's "incredible discounts" (i.e., shoplifting) and Joe's checklist of questions--a heartbreakingly succinct attempt for him to connect with something, anything, from the outside. These different voices, set against one another, sound a dissonant chorus of disappointments and disaffections, and it's as if no-one is able to give anything, only to take. In this light, the contrived circumstances that tie the pieces of the play together end up "pretty" satisfying.

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