By Ed Kliszus
The title is initially bemusing. While I initially thought it to be a deliberate épater la bourgeoisie, posted simply to titillate and shock respectable citizens, I soon entered the ineffable unfolding of a dark, tragic tale of abasement and survival by one who emerged as a heroine. The title was fitting.
Billed as “a healing balm for anyone with a secret,” FUKT is that and much more. It is a brilliantly conceived and complex dark psychological comedy studying the mind and life of a victim of prolonged and profound vile betrayal. The innocent Emma (Bridget Ann White) was defiled by a degenerate, dreadful bête noire, who should have protected her as a child.
Our heroine Emma eventually spoke to us as an adult with a loving husband and children. Up to that point, we discovered with horror and disgust the paths to which her abuse led. Along the way, she experienced a silent mother, cystitis, self-loathing, therapy at age eight, being taught to forget, taught to be silent, lucky to be wanted, birth control pills at puberty, ulcerative colitis, promiscuity, celiac disease, and sadomasochism.
And although eventually married to a loving, patient, and caring husband, Emma struggles with her essence and sensibility, which were damaged from years of abuse as a child. In an attempt to reconcile her many conflicting and confusing feelings, she speaks, argues, fights, and sings with her inner demons characterized by two alter egos, Bobbie (Eileen Sugameli) and Barbara (Julia Mack). We wonder if the interactions from this triune can result in healing or at least self-preservation.
The innocence and charm of the three characters amplified the compassionate commiserations of the observer. They struggled to find any joy in their/her childhood, and it seemed only music, and a record player provided comfort.
They wonder, what is love? Is it simply going back to what’s familiar despite that place being the source of unimaginable pain? Does Emma share the frustration of Cassandra, who accurately portends prophecies while no one listens? Rage, denial, try to forget.
The tensions skillfully maintained by our trio are palpable as they rationalized, struggled, justified, voiced self-doubt, reflected, and surmised that the victim did the best she could.
Finally, a relieved audience heard, “after a while, a story becomes a story,” “we will not live in silence,” “we will tell,” “that’s the dream,” and “we are not alone.” The audience and cast demonstrably stated in unison, “I will tell.”
Emma is now one and at peace with her two alter egos named “love” and “courage.” “My soul is fine, thank you for asking.”
FUKT concluded with a bright light of hope, a joyful song, and well-deserved acclamation. This is a story for all victims.
This cast deserves high praise for maintaining the challenging, complex characters and tensions while also charming and engaging viewers who could not resist being sympathetic and moved. Their performances were effective, stimulating, and inventive.
Special recognition is due to the production team for costuming, lighting, sound, music, staging, set, choreography, and blocking.
By Emma Goldman-Sherman
Directed by Janice L. Goldberg
Bridget Ann White as Emma
Julia Mack as Barbara
Eileen Sugameli as Bobbie
Kati Schwartz as Emma/Barbara (Understudy)
Mary Nepi as Barbara/Bobbie (Understudy)
Mariah Lotz, Composer and Music Director
Michael Abrams, Lighting
Anita Sibony de Adelsberg, Set
Cami Huebert, Costumes
Hannah K. Allen, Choreography
Ray Rodriguez, Light director
Kaleigh Cerqua, Production Stage Manager
Kaili Turner, Assistant Stage Manager
Runtime 80 minutes without intermission
312 W 36th St.
New York, NY 10018
For tickets and information on the current season go to https://thetanknyc.org
Readers may also enjoy our reviews of Body Through Which the Dream Flows, Hedda Gabler, Love Quirks, and Susan B.