Twisted is the latest great ensemble piece to come from the Horse Trade group and once again they deliver a show that lives up to its name. From outlandishly twisted to deviously twisted to simply subtly twisted, each of these five one-acts is served up with a twist.
Twisted bursts out of the gate with Teddy Knows Too Much (written by Matt Hanf and directed by Joseph McLaughlin/Assistant Director Cara Liander) with Peter Aguero as an out-sized toddler who is 50% Stewie Griffin, 50% Hamlet and 100% side splitting as he at first teams up with, then turns on, his faithful Teddy Bear. Written cleverly by Hanf and played with deadpan bravado by the wonderful Aguero, this short, snappy piece almost goes by too quickly. Chris Enright and Alexia Tate hold their own as the harried parents who find themselves too busy to do more than throw money at a problem but Aguero’s sublime channeling of a devious 3 year old steals the scene, as he should. Cute little clever child with an over active imagination or homicidal maniac in the making? You decide …
Following is The Kiss (written by Mark Harvey Levine and directed by Melissa Farinelli). There was a moment while I was watching the scene unfold where someone in the first row (rudely) tapped her friend on the shoulder and said, in recognition (and a loud stage whisper), “This is just like on Friends!!!!” Now, as much as I hate people in the audience (especially when the audience seats 50 people max) who feel they have to simultaneously translate for the rest of us, I actually had to agree with this rude girl. This Kiss plays like a re-tread of a thousand sitcoms … any time a guy and a girl have been ‘friends forever’ and ‘just want to see what it would be like’ or said ‘let me practice with you so I can be good for my date’ you’ve seen what The Kiss is selling. Driving home that fact is that Allison (played by Flor Bromley) can’t seem to keep from bursting into fits of giggles the first few times Denis (Jonathan Reed Wexler) approaches her. This is pure Sitcom 101. Still, the scene was really well acted even as the plot was a bit stale, and the last few seconds of the scene (singularly played out on Flor Bromley’s face) were really well done.
Following is perhaps the funniest and most inventive short of the night, Head Games (written by Justin Warner and directed by Jason Tyne-Zimmerman). Set in ancient Judea, it opens on the living room of Salome (Lindsay Beecher) right as she receives the head of John the Baptist from her uncle Herod (Chris Enright) who is flabbergasted (to say the least) at the banal way in which she accepts the gift. After all, he went to great lengths to get this for her. A line of questioning yields nothing, and confusion leads to horror as Salome begins to talk about doing things to the head (which seem unspeakable) in the most blase manner. When Herodias (Nicole Howard) arrives and innocently asks about the head, she drops clues which leave Herod horrified to realize his misunderstanding of the request. I don’t think I’ve seen a more inventive, funnier bit of theatre this year than Head Games … the payoff was so unexpected and so beautifully played that I think the audience was literally tickled; happy to have been hoodwinked as well, but horrified by the confusion.
The next short, Nurturing Bond (written By Tom Kiesche, Directed By Matthew Kreiner) was similarly inventive, and psychologically just as shocking but for obvious reasons (the very large prop which connects the two characters together), this piece tends to distract too much. Melissa Ciesla is marvelous as a mother who loves too much, who goes one step farther than every one of those overbearing mothers who spit on a napkin to wash their children’s faces, much to the embarrassment of the child. What this mother does goes beyond a little saliva. Ever meet one of those guys who mentions his mother so often that you’re prompted to murmur “ … cut the cord already!” Well, just image if he really had to, and that would give you Nurturing Bond. The deep issues of two people who can’t escape each other would have been better served if the audience hadn’t been distracted by the “ick” factor. Again, Melissa Ciesla and Michael McManus as her son really show the strains a bond like that can put on two grown people … but it might have been better to do it without the use of a prop.
Party Girl (written by Kitt Lavoie and directed by Ian Quinlan, Assistant Director Derrick DeMaria) rounds off this quintet of shows nicely. As a young man (Billy Fenderson) arrives at his cousin’s bachelor party he finds his girlfriend of 5 months (Becky Sterling) giving his dad a lap dance … she’s one of two featured strippers hired as the evening’s entertainment. It’s the typical story of the student (in this case, the Ph.D. candidate) working her way through school the easiest way she can, big money, short hours, and just a few quick pep talks before each “show” to remind herself that she’s a good person. Unlike her coke fueled co-stripper (Lindsay Beecher) who does anything for tips, she makes sure to hold to her own personal standards. Somehow her boyfriend finds this hard to believe. He then doesn’t understand how he can introduce her to his whole family at the wedding when half the male guests met her the night before in her underwear. Perhaps the funniest part of the scene however comes when his sense of “Hey! I’m at a bachelor party and this better be good!” actually wins out and he starts to throw a fit that he paid for his cousin to sleep with two strippers and now, because of his girlfriend’s rule to not sleep with the hosts, he’ll only get to sleep with one of them. Hell, yeah. Now that’s … Twisted.
TWISTED is playing from July 9-25 2009 at
UNDER St. Marks
(94 St. Marks Place between 1st & A)
Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays at 8pm
Sundays at 2pm
All Tickets are $15 except Student / Senior which are $12, purchase them through SmartTix.