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He Says: AFO’s Fractured Monsoon Season Flies Uniquely Into An Adderall Storm

He Says: AFO’s Fractured Monsoon Season Flies Uniquely Into An Adderall Storm

When a man loves a woman. What exactly is he capable of doing? Or failing and flailing to do? That’s the overarching statement and question that flies overhead during this particularly stormy Monsoon Season as written by the sharp Lizzie Vieh (The Loneliest Number). Birds are everywhere, literally and metaphorically, flying with a kamikaze-like attitude into windows and backyards, threatening and warning of the coming of the rains. With classic country music and cacti a-blazing in the background, courtesy of the eclectic set design by You-Shin Chen (Ars Nova’s Mrs. Murray’s Menagerie), the haphazard ramshackle quality ushers in a similar dead-end vibe that permeated the stale air of 2ST’s Linda Vista, for pretty much the same reason. It’s a better wittier rendition of a man’s utter failure in marriage, told with a warped eye for destruction, and one that packs a two sided hammer punch that buzzes with Adderall glee.

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Richard Thieriot. Photo by Maria Baranova.

The man before us in the first segment is Danny, a sad pathetic IT guy, played with wide-eyed exhaustion by the engaging Richard Thieriot (2ST’s Mary Page Marlowe), living sleepless is an unpacked clutter of boxes, kicked down and out by his wife Julia, who we will meet up with later. His smile is of the torn down tense variety, that registers pain inside the twitch and agony underneath the lopsided grin. His well paced monologue pulls us inside his torturous Peaches strip club dilemma, and then fractures us away when he starts down some inappropriately angry and zoned out pathways. As directed with sharpness by Kristin McCarthy Parker (59E59’s Bears), this problematic man child is lost, running and stumbling towards nothingness with scissors in his hands. It’s a recipe for disaster, we all see it, as he hides in his shell “like a little bitch“, making bad choices, one after the other, snip snip snipping himself with castanet fury out of his own life into a lifeless puddle in the backyard.

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Therese Plaehn. Photo by Maria Baranova.

His full throttled and bloody fall into the rushing waters of Monsoon Season surprisingly engages, even as it becomes more and more deliriously uncomfortable and stained, just like his sad IT shirt. Within the smart and solid costume choices by Haydee Zelideth (Public’s Mojada), we somehow feel for this sad sack, reluctantly, and just as the connection is somewhat complete, a sharp and intensely fractured burst of light, designed by the talented Sarah Johnston (AFO’s Squeamish) with perfectly attuned sound design by Emma Wilk (Off-Broadway’s A Clockwork Orange), shoves Danny boy out into the dark night, replacing him by the hard as nails Julia, well played by the smart Therese Plaehn (National tour of The Humans). “People need to like me” she says, as we struggle to do just that.  She’s self-involved and selfish, channeling all that is wrong with America’s instant gratification generation, telling us that she’s wasted her “hot years” on her devoted husband, Danny.  Their child seems less important to her than a kitten, or a hermit crab, and her attempt to rectify her reflection in the mirror is as messy as her hot guy infested teenage girl thoughts. It’s highly captivating, her performance, daring us to find the human behind the artificial video tutorials and superficial rants. Cunning in her collapse, Plaehn does her duty forcing us to look down the troubled YouTube into her sad needy world as she starts out her story in the same place that Danny did some 30 minutes prior.

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Therese Plaehn. Photo by Maria Baranova.

It’s a startling construct, that feels at first like a fun parlor trick, giving us her side of the phone conversations and arguments that we already watched lead Danny to his destruction. There’s a slight problem with the flip-side replay. The slickness of style doesn’t exactly pull us in as emotionally as we just experienced with Danny.Her personal descent into jittery madness and mental breakdown is packed with power but lacks that the same compassion. Maybe we can’t, cause we have already seen the pain she has caused so its difficult to get behind her need.  Plaehn does her best to force us to look, especially as her live streaming fractures into a truly wonderful demented bird land paranoia (yes, you read that right) that feeds off the shattered pill popping madness of the distraught.  It’s quite the scene, scattered and stormy, forcing, luckily, Danny back into the wide angled picture, so that we can finally start operating in the here and now, rather than the thirty minute delay system that wasn’t working all that well for our connective senses.

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Richard Thieriot, Therese Plaehn. Photo by Maria Baranova.

Does this scare you?” It shouldn’t, as the performers work hard to draw us into their cluttered mess of attachment and absurdist demonic stalking. If it wasn’t for the fractured attempt for structural uniqueness, this Monsoon Season, courtesy of All For One Theater at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater might have flooded our senses from start to finish with its wound up black bird metaphoric madness. As it stands, it’s a three legged neon wonder bird, posed to fly. It gets caught up in the winds and the rain of the Monsoon, wobbly finding glory in the revved up bloody mess of the needy. Shuffling between the two wonderfully adept monologue pieces a bit more aggressively under one timeline, rather than presenting one followed by the other, might make the piece fly stronger with better interconnected wings, although it might feel far too traditional and less edgy.  Or maybe not. It’s hard to say, but somehow the choppy chainsawed structure flies, like a peach tossed into the rain-swollen river below, finding different colors to focus on in its short flight.

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Therese Plaehn, Richard Thieriot. Photo by Maria Baranova.

For more, go to frontmezzjunkies.com

Off Broadway
@#frontmezzjunkies

My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my last...so far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

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