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nytheatre.com review by Andrew Rothkin
August 18, 2013
A scene from Inexcusable Fantasies
Coasting down the highway with a Harley trembling between your legs… Lusting after Martha Stewart and her agile, accomplished hands…. Grieving over the loss of your one true love/sex toy…
These are but a few of the glimpses into Susan McCully’s journey in her masterfully-written two-woman piece, Inexcusable Fantasies – a sort of coming of age story of a middle-aged woman. Or rather, I suppose, a coming of middle-age tale.
While it is difficult to know precisely which elements are autobiographical and which are the work of an exceptionally fertile mind, I prefer to think that with a few theatricalities aside, McCully is sharing her truth, indeed, baring her very soul. She apologizes for nothing. After all, she spent her childhood apologizing – for looking too different, for feeling too different, for much of her very existence. In a straight-laced, conservative hometown with straight-laced, conservative parents, a homely child (i.e. one ill-suited to wear the Miss America crown) is outsider enough; when the child is also LGBT, fitting in – or more importantly, feeling worthy within one’s own, sexy skin – can seem an insurmountable task.
When she initially graced the stage and began to erupt with poetic prose, I was awed by McCully’s wordsmithery, her intricately woven stream of words whose meanings and allusions seemed three steps ahead of me. I took a breath a prepared myself for an hour of esoteric meanderings… a play wherein I would enjoy a very gifted writer’s wordplay, but not one in which the actor/writer would connect with me nor would I connect to the material… beyond an appreciation of clever language. Thankfully, within the first three minutes of the piece, both McCully and I took a breath and relaxed, and I eagerly traversed the story by her side, a companion to her sometimes sad, often hilarious, always wise reflections.
The excellent Rachel Hirshorn fused in and out of her stories, transforming into various women in Susan/Michelle’s life – most notably, her mother and long-time lover. Like McCully herself, Hirshorn was a delight to watch and listen to, displaying charm and solid skill, adept at both the comedic and the dramatic elements. Perhaps more importantly, the two played wonderfully off of each other with real and palpable chemistry – each making the other look all the better.
The entire piece was beautifully staged by Eve Muson, easy, smooth and polished, highlighting the theatrical as much as the real, the touching as much as the funny. Billy D’Eugenio’s light design, Lian French’s prop design and Mallorie Ortega’s sound design evoked the various moods and shifts very well, adding to the emotional undertones and to the storytelling as a whole.
Though I have some mild criticisms (hey, that’s my job!), such as wanting a more relaxed, somewhat more naturalistic intro, a tighter, more definitive ending (perhaps bookending a tweaked beginning), and some edits to the lovely but long motorcycle monologue, Inexcusable Fantasies is a very well-done, thought-provoking, feeling-inducing, often laugh-out-loud-funny piece of theatre – and I am very happy I saw it. I encourage you to run out and do the same.