Venus & Mona
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nytheatre.com review by Ed Malin
March 17, 2013
Amy Newhall and Christina Elise Perry in Venus & Mona
Variations Theatre Group has spent six months working with playwright Leslie Bramm on a revised version of his play Venus and Mona. This is the first of such projects at their new home at the Chain Theatre in Long Island City, and I hope they will all be this interesting.
The setting is a rooftop of a California mobile home surrounded by garbage. As they have done before, twenty-something identical twin sisters Venus (Amy Newhall) and Mona (Christina Elise Perry) are insulting each other punk-rock style and fistfighting according to rules they created at age 6. They have not seen each other in some time. Mona is now a cult film star. Their mother, whom they refer to as "Junkie/drunk" is in a hospital, near death. Mona knows she has only 24 hours to get back to London and finish her latest film, but there are a lot of things for her to work through here. It is interesting that the two talented actresses do not resemble each other but are playing twins that the third character, Detective Cortes (Becky London) cannot tell apart. The twins have an almost telepathic understanding, but deal with their issues in very different ways. Metaphorically, the garbage around them has taken years to accumulate and could only be removed with lots of work. Yet, it is at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting that Detective Cortes met their frequently "oblivious" mother. To what extent is the family demon, the Galadamy, "real"? What will happen next? Who will live and who will die? It's a tense and fascinating ending that I recommend you experience for yourself.
It's refreshing to hear dialogue that is so up to date, aggressive, bratty and also vulnerable. This play which has no males onstage is a special opportunity to see female characters who have overcome adversity to find their own way in life, yet enjoy the chance to bond using their unique language. I love how the sisters have rules for timeouts to check their makeup during their fights. Director Kirk Gostkowski has built in a lot of diverting combat and antagonism between the sisters and the mysterious woman who knows their mother. Scenic and lighting designer R. Allen Babcock and scenic artist Stephanie Ferraoili have thrown some surprises into the deceptively simple-looking garbage pile surrounding the rooftop fighting space. There is the tree branch that is the only way up to the roof, which collapses early in the show, and there are also the machinations of the demon Galadamy brought about somehow by the unseen Christopher Flores.