nytheatre.com review by Ed Malin
August 22, 2012
It's a compelling, darkly comic play with a puppet heading an otherwise-human cast. It's not for children. Children, stop reading now, please.
Mallory, the puppet, lives in a shack out by the swamp. She is, well, a crack whore. Or rather, Valerie (Aliee Chan), the person "with her hand up [Mallory's] ass" expresses herself through Mallory and gets her drugs and miserable lodgings from her dealer Pierce (David Marconi). However, Pierce gets his daily sexual gratification from Mallory, not from Valerie. Everyone has very personal needs that might appear strange to an outside observer.
Enter the outside observer, a young minister's daughter named Paula (Sarah Grodsky, also the author of this fabulous play) who is so desperately in need of a place to live that she becomes Mallory/Valerie's roommate. But why is Paula on the run from her father and fundamentalist Christian boyfriend, James (Brendan Hahn)? What sick things did Paula's father do to her, which James is on a mission to "forgive"? Paula and Valerie have already bonded on an emotional and physical level by the time James arrives, full of reasons why the young women are going to hell. Valerie, whose childhood abuse was even worse than Paula's--sadly, she is so broken that she can only speak through a puppet--wants to get James out of the picture. If only it were that easy.
Perhaps the most telling line is spoken to James by Mallory, who laughingly says she is a prophet. Where do our traditions come from? Who is really the one doing the talking? Who should be held responsible for the damage done? Which is more abusive, drugs or the hyper-rational witch hunt that some call religion? Like the swamp shack with only a bucket for a bathroom, there is no privacy in this play. It is deeply, refreshingly truthful.
Kudos to director Allison Andresini for bringing us these characters who all take themselves so seriously. David Marconi prides himself on being a dealer who takes care of Mallory/Valerie, while Sarah Grodsky plays such a goody two shoes that it is a shock to see her drop her super-virgin persona. Brendan Hahn starts off with such concern that it is a shame to realize how much slapping around can be placed under the category of righteous indignation. Aliee Chan portrays a whole world of joy and frustration, once you get past the puppet and scratch the surface. If you are adventurous, I urge you to scratch the surface, too, by coming to see Mallory/Valerie.