Technically I’m on sabbatical this year, not doing theatre writing. However… I’m resurfacing this week because there are two theatrical happenings right now that will thrill you, and I can’t resist being the bearer of good news. I’ll tell you about Thing Two tomorrow or Wednesday. For today, a quick, super enthusiastic review of SLOWGIRL, which is playing at Hyde Park Theatre through April 27th.
SLOWGIRL, by Greg Pierce, debuted at Lincoln Center up there in the Big Fancy City. The Hyde Park Show marks its second production and, as ever, Ken Webster – who directs and stars in the show, along with Molly Karrasch—sinks deep his teeth into a nice, juicy script.
Let me remind the six of you, since it’s been awhile since I’ve written about a show, that Spike does not do spoilers in her play reviews (she saves those for Downton Abbey updates on Ye Olde Facebooke). So you won’t get much in the way of plot description here. But I will tell you that, in the eerie way that life and art keep mimicking each other, SLOWGIRL happens to echo— if not precisely then close enough— some current headlines about some Ohio high school football players who were just convicted of a crime involving teens and alcohol and video recordings and social media. It’s a hot topic, and explored really well in SLOWGIRL.
Molly Karrasch’s portrays 17 year-old Becky, who is— for reasons I won’t go into— visiting her Uncle Sterling (Ken Webster), who is holed up in his golden cage of an existence in a hut in the jungle in Costa Rica. Karrasch is the quintessential screeching, manipulative, self-involved pain-in-the-ass adolescent female. Because I once lived—briefly, though it felt like an eternity at the time— with a screeching, annoying, manipulative, self-involved pain-in-the-ass teenage girl, I can tell you, Karrasch nails it. I certainly had my friend Southpaw Jones’s awesome anthem The Cruelty of Teenage Girls running through my head by show’s midpoint.
There is this sort of irony to Karrasch’s skilled channeling. There are definitely points when you want her character to shut the fuck up. Sort of like you wanted Javier Bardem’s character to fall off the face in No Country for Old Men—you know? But in the end, you keep watching because you can’t not.
Uncle Sterling is a complex character and Webster captures the nuance with aplomb. I’m biased, yes—I am such a fan of Ken Webster’s acting that he could mount a production of the live nativity and cast himself as the burro Mother Mary trots in on and I’d be tickled to watch. Check out the show and see for yourself and if you agree (you will) let’s get a KickStarter going to get that nativity thing up and running, okay?
While I won’t reveal the plot, I will say that the theme here is that universal one about perception. How we perceive ourselves. How we perceive others’ possible perceptions of us. What we will say and do to shift those perceptions in our own minds and in the minds of outsiders. Tricky business and explored deeply enough here to make me squirm a little reflecting on representations of myself I have sometimes put out there.
In the end, let’s call SLOWGIRL a mashup of the Odd Couple and No Exit. Webster and Karrasch play off each other really well. She’s not precisely a manic pixie dream girl, but she does shake him awake a bit and he—far more gently—brings a vulnerable version of her to the surface, too.
Before I sign off and resume sabbatical, a big shout out to Ia Ensterä, whose set is MAGNIFICENT. OMG. I don’t know how she does it—I am in love with all of her sets and I think with each one it can’t get better and then it does. Super Bravo Ia! You can come redesign my house anytime.
SLOWGIRL runs Thursday – Saturdays through April 27th. Thursdays are pay what you can night. Show time: 8 pm. Ninety minute runtime, no intermission. For info go to the Hyde Park Theatre website or call 479-PLAY to reserve seats.