The Happiest Ads
The Happiest Ads
The Happiest Ads

Charlotte The Destroyer (2014 Frigid New York Festival)

by Geoffrey Paddy Johnson on February 26, 2014

No Gravatar

Gretchen Knapp, Shawn Patrick Murphy, Megan O’Leary
(photo Credit: DFXDEN)

The idea behind Megan O’Leary‘s play Charlotte the Destroyer is at once intellectually brilliant and artistically fecund. An author of a series of successful children’s stories featuring the character of a a young girl, Charlotte, elects to write a novel in which her youthful star will grow up. She chooses to do so, however, at a point of singular mental fragility in her own life, and as her world slides out of control, her heroine evolves into a powerful agent of destruction in the process. The created character who overtakes the creator is, of course, a shadow tale that has been around since Pygmalion was found outside the Garden of Eden. But what a compelling twist O’Leary gives the story in this new suit of clothes.

The play opens on a truly squalid apartment interior, and you don’t need to have a PhD in psychology to know that all is not well in the world of the occupant. At the rear of the stage loom three large two dimensional storybook illustrations; a woman, a man, and a cat. Huddled amidst them is a live figure, ponytailed and knee-socked, still as a statue for the moment – the eponymous Charlotte (Gretchen Knapp). Already she is more real, larger than the frame that tries to contain her. In the foreground Charlotte’s creator and her boyfriend go at it in a bitter round of morning, post alcoholic dejection. Nothing, really, is working in these people’s lives and we are set up to wonder if, by story’s end, it ever will. Between bouts of sulky drinking and trenchant bickering the author works at her typewriter, and her creation takes the stage as the new story unfolds. Much as we could wish to escape the author’s bleak and bruised world, Charlotte’s new scenarios become only more horrible at every turn. Each novel episode burrows away at the author’s own plausibly repressed history, but only digs us deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole. There  is no way out for the writer and, indeed, for us. Charlotte proves to be a feelingless sociopath, infecting each moment with an uncomprehending cruelty even as her world rises up to abuse and victimize her. As jaggedly desperate as her creator is, the creation is even more alienating. The only reason you might wish to laugh here is because otherwise you would think to cry.

charlotteLike much that is designated dark comedy – and here the accent falls very gravely on the dark – Charlotte the Destroyer is almost entirely cerebral as an exercise, and distrustful of feeling. The writing repels empathy. And here is the rub for this production. In the dire battle of wills between author and creation, who is to prevail? As O’Leary herself demonstrates little to no sympathy for her characters, it is well nigh impossible for an audience to really care. Which sadly - in this otherwise excellent production - goes a long way to diminishing the overall impact.

Reprising their roles from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival of 2006, playwright Megan O’Leary takes the part of the sketchily named author character, and Gretchen Knapp that of Charlotte. Both are effective, Knapp - hosting more than a spoonful of whiskey in those girlish tones (another quietly thoughtful and startling detail) - especially absorbing as the wan faced, perverse destroyer. The production is by  The Playhouse Creatures Theatre Company. Joseph W. Rodriguez, Emily Dahlke, Shawn Patrick Murphy, and Alex Carmine flesh out the cast, and all deliver under the watchful direction of Janet Bobcean. Some steely and assured theatre awaits; you’re sure to be appalled.


Charlotte the Destroyer
Company: Playhouse Creatures Theatre
Directed by: Anais Koivisto

Remaining Performance:
Feb 26, 7:05PM
Mar 03, 5:30PM
Mar 08, 2:05PM

Click HERE for tickets

Running time: 0 h 55 min
Price: $10.00 – $16.00
Seating: General Admission

The Kraine Theater
85 E. 4th Street
New York , New York 10003
2nd and 3rd Ave

Horse Trade Theater Group will present the 8th Annual FRIGID New York Festival at The Kraine Theater (85 East 4th Street between 2nd Avenue and Bowery) and UNDER St. Marks (94 St. Marks Place between 1st Avenue and Avenue A) February 19-March 9. Tickets are available for purchase in advance at or by calling 212-868-4444. 

Print Friendly

Related Posts:

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: