Madwoman in the Attic: An Evening of Short Plays is a wild interpretation of the saucy, lustful and comic writing of Theresa Rebeck, shown here in six of her short plays.
The playwright is known for her NBC musical drama “SMASH” and the Broadway hit Seminar. Aniko Olah makes her directorial debut for this Fringe production in conjunction with actors from The Actors Repertory Theater of The National Conservatory of Dramatic Arts.
The setting is, as the title suggests, an attic. One by one the actors appear, never to leave the stage again. They are live props and when not stepping into the light to perform they scatter throughout the stage, ready to create a vibrant transition between scenes, dancing, moving and shaking.
There is a lot of physical collapsing in Madwoman in the Attic: An Evening of Short Plays. It is inspired by the master of the house, a spirit or living memory in the body of a raggedy doll. The doll is always with us, looking out in the audience during each play and coming to life for scene changes. When a scene starts, the actors immediately collapse similar to how a rag doll would naturally fold into itself.
It is not obvious what the connection is between the rag doll and the sassy, dramatic scenes. The doll does add a lightheartedness but doesn’t interact with the actors until the fifth play. I found myself wanting the doll to connect more with the actors because the contrast felt exceptional – the doll does not have emotional capacities like a human and allows the humans on stage to stand out all the more because of it. The actors are impossibly human; expelling anger, causing emotional destruction and leading imperfect lives.
Almost every play includes a heated, raucous argument between a man and a woman; whether it’s in a bar, beach, or restaurant, people seem to be enraged with one another, ending at just the right time before things get really serious. The bite size success of the plays is that I didn’t want more by the end.
By the third play, Big Mistake, the audience is a little more ready for the thrills being thrown our way. Two women find themselves in a bar. One recognizes a man who is an old fling that she absolutely does not want to run into. Nonetheless a lot of arguments proceed. At one point, once the two get to arguing about their past relationship, the man says to the woman, “you got more walls than a f*ing prison.”
This scenario arises multiple times through out the performance, where the man is making a charge at the woman, and trying to understand her in his own way. Suffice to say, the play makes women look crazy and the men only slightly less crazy. Though not all the themes deal in destructive relationships.
Two plays, The Funeral Play and Sex With the Censor deal with a dissimilar theme that is more on par with insanity. We are introduced to characters with strange habits and those who are hitting their edge. Lines get crossed, guns get pulled and few more ridiculous surprises all within fifteen minutes or less.
This is the roller coaster of Madwoman in the Attic: An Evening of Short Plays – an opportunity to experience a spectrum of emotions while under a jovial current created by the baffling rag doll.
Madwoman in the Attic has 5 performances, ending July 22, 2012, at Studio Threatre’s Milton Theatre, 1501 14th St NW, Washington, DC.
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Breena rates this 3 out of a possible 5.