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Theater Review (NYC): The Scandal! by Kristen Kosmas

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"Postmodernism is a theory that eats itself" is a line repeated twice in Kristen Kosmas'  challenging, confounding play The Scandal! It seems that Kosmas, is determined to see just how far she can go in testing that assertion. Pink, The Scandal!'s protagonist (played here for the first time not by Kosmas herself but by another actress, Amy Patrice Golden), lives without any advanced awareness of reality, yet shows flashes of understanding that keep her from living in a completely dreamlike state.

Pink is what we would define as an emotionally unstable woman, with an emotionally removed mother and a small but twisted social circle in an isolated desert town. Pink's own isolation, however, is more personal than social or geographical. Perhaps The Scandal!'s greatest accomplishment is its ability to reduce the contradictions and instability of postmodernism into the existence of a singe individual.

The Scandal! amy patrice goldenThe Management Company, one of the rising companies of the Horse Trade Theater Group, is establishing a distinct reputation for producing magical realist perspectives on broken pieces of Americana. More than any other company, The Management presents New York with theatrical visions of bleak American rural life. The cognitive dissonance of the two settings provided a minor controversy when The Management's last show, Joshua Conkel's The Chalk Boy, received universally positive reviews except for one particularly jaded review: the New York Times's. While The Management's reach is still small, the Times affair may have done more than anything else to catapult the Management to the status of one of New York's hottest hole-in-the-wall theater companies.

The Scandal! is much less accessible than The Chalk Boy, and probably not as good an overall production, but it's a show of almost unfathomable depth, deeply personal soul-searching, and a surprising level of danger. The Scandal! challenges the audience to form a bond with a woman of deeply tangential thinking, whom we know from the start will either kill herself, burn her house down, or both. Until the last possible moment, the audience is even more baffled about what's really going on than Pink is herself.

Part of the problem with The Management's production is that Kosmas's deeply personal play translates somewhat awkwardly to another actor's hands. Golden looks and feels the role of Pink, with a face older and more vulnerable-looking than her still-in-her-prime body. While Golden is a little inconsistent with her physical expression of Pink, the moments when she hits the right notes are absolutely devastating. More problematic is Golden's delivery of Kosmas's unique dialogue. Golden's pacing is disappointingly monotonous, with the breaks occurring at more or less the same time in every sentence. Her vocal inflections also lack the right level of variety.

The Scandal Amy Patrice GoldenI did not see Kosmas perform her own lines, and I cannot judge how much of the production's inconsistency is the product of Kosmas herself, Golden, or Courtney Sale's direction. But strangely, that ambiguity seems right for a play that focuses so intently on personalizing and outwardly expressing a world of ideas. Despite the production's flaws, it's better for the play's sake that The Management makes the personal and the intellectual so inseparable in The Scandal!

The deeper you get into The Scandal!, the more it seems like the play's parable of postmodernism will never eat itself. Eventually, and unexpectedly, however, Pink suddenly finds herself in the realm of reality. Her life becomes more normal, her social sphere more stable, and her mind fully intact and aware, contrary to both Pink and everybody else's expectations (audience included). Some may find this conciliatory final note maddening, but it's a twist that proves strangely uplifting. In the end, it's not that postmodernism eats itself, but that reality finds a way to purge postmodernism from your system.


The Scandal!, by Kristen Kosmas; directed by Courtney Sale; set design by James Carney; costume design by Peggy Vivino; technical design by Kelsi Welter; sound design by Josh Conkel; original music by Kosmas. Photos by John Alexander.

Starring Amy Patrice Golden (Pink).

The Scandal! runs through December 20 at the Red Room, 85 East 4th Street. Tickets can be purchased at www.horseTRADE.info.

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About Ethan Stanislawski