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Theater Review (NYC): Something Weird…in the Red Room

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Hell hath no fury like hipsters on Halloween. The East Village, long a domain for crazed Halloween festivities, is not letting a mere few weeks of waiting get in the way of its chance to drink and be weird. The Red Room at the K.G.B. Bar, a New York hipster institution ever since it opened in 1993, is the perfect place for a bunch of irony-worshippers to drink a few beers, watch a couple of bizarre plays, and chat with artist types. Something Weird…In the Red Room, a Rachel Klein joint, is a pretty emblematic example of how this generation’s artsy-fartsy youth executes theater: a few good ideas, some indie rock background music, sporadic funny moments, and lots of intentional clichés. In Something Weird’s case, an otherwise enjoyable night of eccentric theater is marred by a lack of artistic and creative discipline.

Rachel Klein, who is quickly becoming a key player in all things weird off-off-Broadway, has found two plays that play to her strengths as a director: circus arts, ghouls, and twisted dramatic logic. Sir Sheever and Aenigma are two imperfect plays that should have made up in spirit what they lacked in meaty production values or narrative fulfillment. Benjamin Spiro’s Sir Sheever, a play where mannequins come alive to good manners in a freaky would-be tea party, is smarter and more complete than its counterpart. It’s also the more conventional of the two. A deceptively traditional play that still features some funny moments, Sir Sheever overcomes its rather lazy fairy-tale elements and dramatic inconsistencies with attitude and some sparkling performances, spearheaded by the Abbott and Costello meets Edward Gorey pair of leads in Bret Haines’ Ralph and Kari Warchock’s Miss Elise.

Two major things hold back Sir Sheever. First, and perhaps most surprisingly, is Klein’s loosey-goosey choreography. With most of the actors playing mannequins for the majority of the show, Sir Sheever would seem like perfect vehicle for some of the staged movement exercises you learn in elementary acting classes. Yet, while the core of the motions are correct, the mannequins are not stiff enough for anyone to take the shock value of their eventual movement seriously. Whether it be a product of the relative inexperience of the cast or a lack of discipline in Klein’s direction, the looseness of the mannequins results in a play that seems more fun for the company than the audience.

The second major flaw is a completely traditional ending that can be predicted within the first fifteen minutes of the show. The moral of the story in an adult fairy tale play – as opposed to in children's theater – has to have a punchline that still shocks a mature audience. In the case of Sir Sheever, the ending simply seems like a cop-out.

aenigma by sean gillAenigma, though the weaker of the two plays, at least wins style points for being a little more daring. Playwright Sean Gill injects some theory into the weirdness, and Klein’s direction is a little sharper. The play can’t maintain a sense of flow, and occasionally borders on incoherence, but the premise of incestuous sisters being woven into and out of reality by a master manipulator is certainly deeper into left field. Aenigma could use a few rewrites and maybe an extra scene or two to reach its optimal level. Sir Sheever, conversely, has probably peaked.


Something Weird…in the Red Room. Featuring Sir Sheever by Benjamin Spiro and Aenigma by Sean Gill. Directed and choreographed by Rachel Klein.

Sir Sheever stars Candy Bloise (Euripides), Ted Caine (Fredrick), Bret Haines (Ralph), Abigail Hawk (Eunice), Megan O'Connor (Miss Prissypants), Michael Porsche (Robert), and Kari Warchock (Miss Elise).

Aenigma stars Jillaine Gill (Diana), Bret Jaspers (Tad), Dasha Kittredge (Body Rock Crew), Christopher Loar (Body Rock Crew), Rob Richardson (Mr. Green), Claire A. Sansaricq (Body Rock Crew), and Elizabeth Stewart (Charlotte).

Something Weird…in the Red Room runs through October 31st, Tuesdays at 8 PM and Fridays at 10:30 PM at 85 E. 4th St. Tickets can be purchased online at SmartTix.

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About Ethan Stanislawski