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East In Red (2014 Frigid New York Festival)

by Karen Tortora-Lee on February 26, 2014

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There’s nothing new about a story where a prostitute gets paid just to talk.  It’s a long-standing plot device –  putting a well meaning hooker with a heart of gold in a position where she’s expected to be equal parts sex kitten, psychiatrist and mother confessor.  However, playwright Ryan Sprague offers up this device to a different end in his play East In Red.  As the night wears on in this game of cat-and-mouse we’ll soon find that it was all a slow build to the moment when a murderer dives in for the kill.

Emily Tuckman, as date-for-hire Marie, plays the typical gal who moved to the big city with dreams of becoming an actress. As client Aaron coaxes out her story, she tells of acting jobs which were few and far between leading to the lure of all the typical routes which sound legit up front but are just a gateway to a lurid sex-for-cash end.  Marie admits that her present situation often sets her off on crying jags so harsh that she’s sickened by them.  Intersperses with this unfolding tale of woe Marie makes attempts to draw Aaron (Patrick Andrew Jones) out of his own shell.  She teases, flirts, even falls to her knees at one point to get things going, yet he persists in keeping the interaction a cordial (albeit uncomfortably strained) one.  Over a bottle of whiskey with money safe in hand Marie listens as Aaron tells his own sad tale.  Together they explore how each person they know is “lonely in their own way” and they discuss the nuances between blending in and being ignored.  Aaron even tells of a high school practical joke which seems to be able to rile him up to this day.

It all plays out a bit unsettlingly – director Mike Backes serves up this relatively bland chit-chat on a tense surface so that every nervous tick, sudden move and shrill giggle pulls just enough to keep the audience uneasy and edgy.  Obviously somethings about to happen, it’s just not quite clear what.

The play takes a few unexpected twists and turns incorporating some fine fight choreography and all the bells and whistles of any good thriller including knife play, gun wielding, ropes, screaming and eerie red lighting in which to bath the whole gorey tableau.  There’s some guerilla film making as well which is part prime-time exposé, part (as one character remarks) snuff film.  And just when you’re sure you know what will happen there’s a swift and gruesome flip of the script.

Although at times brutal, certainly violent and definitely ominous East In Red is mostly just a good way to spend an hour if you’re looking for a little splatter, a little thrill, and a little blood.


East In Red
Company: Estraña Theatre Company/Emily Tuckman
Directed by: Mike Backes

Remaining Performance:
Mar 01, 8:25PM
Mar 04, 5:30PM
Mar 05, 8:40PM

Click HERE for tickets

Running time: 1 h 0 min
Price: $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. 

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