The mercurial quality of imagination is captured in every aspect of the highly imaginative YOU ARE PERFECT – writing, directing, acting, staging – currently running (through February 20) at the Workshop Theater Main Stage 312 West 36th Street in Manhattan. (Tickets: http://bit.ly/perfecttickets)
This play conforms to the classical unities of time, place, and action, which makes its shape so satisfying, but how it toys with our notion of time is what makes it intriguing.
The action takes place within 24 hours in a single room inside a prison. The central characters are actors in a drama we think we already know – the horrific killings perpetrated by the Manson family. It is the critical night of decision before protagonist Susan Atkins, skillfully given to us by actress Carlotta Brentan, will take the stand. Reflective, seductive, spirited, angry, stubborn, resistant, longing, this is a breakout role for Brentan whose performance choreographs these states of mind into a heart-breaking dance.
She is visited by a gray-haired woman from the New Beginnings Program, expertly rendered by Nancy Wolfe. The older woman is full of zeal, on a mission, with the kind of understanding of another that this actress succeeds in making palpable for the audience. The parry and thrust of their exchanges, like a fencing match, is the heart of the play. She is the pillar around which all of the action swirls.
Then there is Manson himself, not so much played as embodied by Brad Burgess. In words and physical attitude, he is coiled throughout the play, ready to spring, full of destructive charm to the weak and susceptible. We can see glimpses of what they saw through his performance, but we know better.
This play from accomplished writer/director Cyndy A. Marion is a dramatic, psychological thought experiment that in no way glorifies a criminal episode in American history. To say anything more would be to say too much. Go see it. There are seven more performances as of this writing.
YOU ARE PERFECT
Written and Directed by Cyndy A. Marion; set designer, Brian Dudkiewicz; resident lighting designer, Debra Leigh Siegel; technical director; Brian P. Snyder; resident composer/arranger/incidental music, Joe Gianono; resident sound design, Andy Evan Cohen; resident costume designer, Derek Nye Lockwood; dramaturgy/managing director, Vanessa R. Bombardieri; assistant director, Lucy Gram; resident fight choreographer, Michael G. Chin; dance choreographer, Kathryn E. Cashin; resident dialect coach, Julie Foh; production supervisor, Craig M. Rosenthal; resident stage manager, Jen Wiener; associate producer, James Michael Hughes; press agent, Sam Morris PR.
With: Carlotta Brentan, Brad Burgess, Nancy Wolfe.
From Whitehorse Theater Company running at Workshop Theater – Main Stage (312 West 36th Street, New York, NY 10018) – through February 20; Tuesday – Saturday; 8PM; Saturday, February 20, 2PM; Sundays 3PM. (Tickets: http://bit.ly/perfecttickets)