nytheatre.com review by Amber Gallery
July 14, 2009
Mary has a dark secret. She wants to be punished for it, and refuses to be happy. Despite her loving boyfriend, Mike, her sweet disposition, and aspirations to better her job situation, she is constantly haunted by her darkness. Mike wants to marry her and make her happy forever. Even Harold, the lawyer who interviews her, wants to help her land the job. But the man she runs to is Theo, who helps her fulfill her need to escape.
Jennie Contuzzi's short, taut drama follows Mary over a few weeks as she approaches a major crossroads—her "normal" life and the life she lives in secret begin to collide. Will she give up her darkness for good or walk off into the sunset with Theo? The time has come where she can no longer have both.
Body Language, all its elements considered, is definitely affecting. My one complaint, if it can be called a complaint, is that I wanted to see more. The play clocks in at just under an hour. Although we spend the lion's share of that time with Mary, Contuzzi could have gone deeper into her past and her psyche, exploring more of the "whys" of her condition, which is a fascinating one. One leaves the theatre with many questions: What caused her to be this way? What is at the root of the hold Theo has over her? What really draws her to Mike and Mike to her? Without fully realized characters for Mary to have relationships with, we only get so far into the heart of the story.
However, the competent team of actors, with Nathaniel Shaw's skilled direction, breathe life into Contuzzi's underdeveloped characters. Amy Miller Brennan is positively charming as Mary, and we root for her from the beginning. She conveys Mary's roller coaster of emotions like a pro. But she is so sweet that I had a little trouble buying her dark tendencies. Michael Andrew Daly is quite humorous and believable as the doting boyfriend, Mike. David Ojala and Jeffrey Trunell both do fine work as Mike's friend Alan and Mary's demon Theo, respectively. Danny Katz plays Harold's white collar sleaziness to perfection, eliciting the biggest laughs of the evening.
Although the Dorothy Strelsin space is tiny, Shaw utilizes its intimacy and setup to the maximum, making bold choices. Lighting designer Ryan Metzler has some quiet nighttime scenes played out in almost total darkness, giving the impression that we are in the room with the characters. A scene featuring a huge camping tent allows us to peek in through the insect screens and intrude on Mike and Mary's backyard camping. Shaw's choice in music is spot on, dreamy and smooth tunes that build to a chaotic frenzy.