What if the girl you loved most in the world had sex with you (as usual) one last time, then left a Dear John note for you the next morning, with no forwarding information–and your name just happened to be John!?! Then—THEN (and this is just a hypothetical now…) all your friends, mostly female, took care of you in shifts (in the most sitcom scenarioed of fashions) and you realized that nearly all of them were in love with you…and prone to occasional cat fighting. Then—THEN (and this is just theoretical now…) each of them had certain uh…attributes that reminded you of your lost (well…*escaped* really) love but only separately, not together; you’d be pretty screwed wouldn’t you—but only by default of technically NOT being screwed…anymore…by the woman you most loved…
(At the very least, sex would be mighty cumbersome if attempted in such an uh…umpteensome…?)
So queries Adam Neubauer’s newly penned and directed play Pieces.
Once, over a round of “Cheers” a director friend of mine declared Kirstie Alley one of the best (read funniest) sitcom criers he’d ever seen. If, however, the John of our play, Alex Walters, were ever to meet Ms. Alley in a dark uh…alley in the midst of crying about how dark and creepy said alley was, Walters could certainly give Alley a run for her money in the theatrical realm! (Whether or not either could escape the alley through the blindness of their tears is another hypothesis waiting to be examined…)
The lights come up on our noted protagonist John, played by a likeable, emphatic and hilarious Alex Walters, after having just found the dastardly note, face down, bawling (as opposed to balling—‘cause who’s he gonna do it with now?) to sniveling oblivion on one of those oblong stage blocks ostensibly representing a bed. (If not, and this is the state of his actual furniture, perhaps this is an additional incentive for his harpy-like shrieks…?) The blubbering lasts for at least the first 15 minutes of this play and there is not a dry eye in the house, in kind, from the wheeze-inducing, laughter this engenders.
The opening tableau encompasses John’s friends standing on either side of the oblong block in medias res. As they stare at the grisly scene in progress, in full frontal tableau, one can only imagine Christ’s last supper as our darling John reminisces his last night with the object of his eternal woe—the aptly-named Chrissy as a near perfect Christ figure, if only in remembrance, in her own right…
An arresting aspect to his collection of friends is that they are all female, save one whom we later discover is gay anyway. Each arranges to cater to John in shifts and each attempts to seduce him and, if not, certainly wishes s/he could. (Hm, how come this never happens in real life…?)
As John’s companions begin an attempt to coax him out of his Chrissy-encased shell, his lovemaking and romancing is at first, perceived as perfunctory. Then, one by one, John begins to notice each of them. At first it seems sweet, particularly with Mary, played by an engaging and sympathetic Kellie Holm; the somewhat withering violet of all John’s friends; “I never realized how much you look like Chrissy…change your hair you’d be a dead ringer for her…” he declares stroking her cheek. And we like this, somewhat; because when it comes right down to it, we all root for girls like Mary. (At least THIS girl does…) She is shy, demure and sweet…virginal, and despite John’s lingering, if not foreshadowingly creepy obsession with Chrissy, we really feel that if he could just find a girl who cares for him—a girl who could never leave him and reduce him to a whining, blubbering, puffy-eyed heap on the floor (or that uncomfortable stage block), all would be right with the world.
But this is a horror play/romantic satire and not to be so.
“Patty’s boobs—Patty’s boobs felt just like Chrissy’s when we hugged… I’ll never feel boobs like that again…” declares John to a recently–albeit voluntarily–defiled Megan, played by the lusciously lascivious Erin Poland as she lays in bed next to him. Aaand points lost for our heretofore sweetness quotient regarding our anti-hero John: Expressing desire for, not only another woman while you’re in bed with a second, but reducing her to a single body part when she’s already a lesbian anyway such that you’d never have a chance with her regardless?!?! Or would you…?
And this is where the piece gets downright gory and disturbing because, not only does John pick out any and every physical attribute each of his female, and even his one male, friend have remotely resembling the heretofore canonized Chrissy; he’ll do anything to recreate her in light of this, including stoop to any and all manner of Frankensteinian measures.
~Sigh~ There’s a term for this, once coined long ago in the shadows of my erstwhile disenchantment with romantic love, and it is no accident that I have attended this play on Valentine’s Day: Valloween. ‘Nuff said, right?
For a split second any and every feminist instinct and erudition I have ever known rebels in the recesses of my cerebellum and I am reminded of all the self defense lessons and related reflexes pertaining to such protections I have ever learned. All the Media Education Foundation (M.E.F.) videos I have ever watched instructing me that the compartmentalization of women and their body parts is the first evil in treating women like things and/or worthy of abuse, or at the very least, second class citizens, come rushing to the forefront of my brain–And that’s merely in reaction for the murder waged for “Patty’s boobs”.
But swiftly after this I am able to silence that aspect of my valid, but situationally irrelevant, *stick-up-the-butt* East Coast liberal upbringing and enjoy the piece thoroughly for what it is; a jolly gruesome romp!!!—A deliciously black comedy!
Does John get his comeuppance in the end? Whom does he kill and for which body parts—especially his beefy friend Gus—(geez!!!) And how will it end…?
There is some half frontal nudity and a very feminine and haunting, siren-like dance choreographed elegantly by Erin Poland and Adam Neubauer, featuring some very intriguing, original music by Kevin Van Cott at the play’s conclusion I quite enjoyed.
But to see it all in its entirety and divine the answers to all the burning mysteries above, you’ll have to be at Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre on any given Friday night at 8:30 pm until March 21st!