Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
January 14, 2011
There’s a hulking tree in the center of the stage, and it seems to symbolize the fact that everyone in the play is, to mix animal metaphors, a wounded bird who’s barking up the wrong romantic tree.
Cynthia loves Taylor. She’s just married him and is pregnant with his baby. But her sister Libby, something of a self-destructive depressive, loves him, too, and is convinced that Cynthia maliciously stole him away. Paul is a childhood friend of Taylor’s who would like to be a lot more than a friend. Dejected by his inability to get what he really wants, he goes from one short-term fling or affair to another, a theme that Libby soon takes up, making a lot more money as a prostitute than she ever did in her series of dead-end jobs. Meanwhile, one of Paul’s rejected lovers keeps resurfacing to make amusing comments to the audience about love and life and whatever else strikes his fancy. Which is all well and good, except this isn’t really a comedy, as it’s billed.
Nicky Silver is known for his quirky comic antics on darkly serious themes. But “The Maiden’s Prayer” is just plain dark, with a few gratuitous laughs thrown in. The characters who think they’re in love seem to be deluded, and those who have genuine ardor tend toward the unhealthy, obsessive variety. No one except the fifth wheel, Andrew, moves forward in a healthy direction. And he’s just an appendage to the play. A tragedy in the lives of the newlyweds shakes everything up. But things don’t get any better. Everyone just swerves off in a different dysfunctional direction. Maybe the playwright was aiming for the kind of gothic romance Paul talks about at the top of the show. But these folks are more ghoulish than goth. And as for anything resembling romance, well, it’s in mighty short supply.
Though this kind of on-the-nose drama strongly departs from his usual, more kinky or wacky fare, the dialogue flies fast and furious, which is trademark Silver. But the malfunctioning just keeps mounting. And nothing comes to any satisfying resolution.
All this grousing aside, Triad Productions does a terrific job with the piece. Their mission is to reach a new generation of theatergoer, and each of their theatrical choices has been aptly unconventional and off-kilter.
Founding artistic director Adam Parker makes splendid use of a killer cast and the Diversionary Theatre stage. Each of the five actors carves out a deeply flawed, neurotic character. We may not like them, we may not understand anything they do. But we see them as broken and damaged human beings, who seem most adept at making the worst possible choices. And maybe that’s something comforting to take home to your own imperfect love and life.
Triad Productions’ local premiere of “The Maiden’s Prayer” continues through January 23 at Diversionary Theatre.
©2011 PAT LAUNER