I Was Loved by a Rat
nytheatre.com review by Jason S. Grossman
August 15, 2013
A scene from I Was Loved by a Rat
Not since the films Willard and Ben premiered in the early seventies has there been a work so dedicated to telling a love story involving a person and a rat (just in case you were wondering about the subject matter of this one-act play). Antonia is a recent college grad about to embark on a new job at a nonprofit. Compounding these pressures is a prominent rodent issue in her dilapidated studio apartment. Welcome to the big city.
Antonia complains to her landlord about fecal droplets and wants an exterminator to fix the problem. Receiving no satisfaction our heroine takes matters into her own hands and applies poison. Enter R.G., a rat, to complicate matters further.
Luckily for us, R.G. appears in human form, stands upright and can talk. He is quite polite and articulate, actually. After initial trepidation, Antonia develops an appreciation for him while remaining guarded. Understandably. He is still a rat after all. She then allows conversations with him about various subjects over an impromptu dinner over leftover pasta.
Essie Martsinkovsky’s script has an intriguing platform and is smartly conceived. She explores a surreal concept in an identifiable setting. Her dialogue is sharp and thoughtful. That R.G.'s knowledge of humans is limited to what he has observed from his life living in the walls of the crumbling building is often humorous.
We see the intricacies of new relationships and the undeniable connection of social class to them slyly embraced here. Through this evening of rat meets girl (or my dinner with R.G.) we also see the seeds of codependency and the pain of unrequited love.
Martsinkovsky establishes a promising basis for the main character with her neurotic turns about building a wardrobe and a strained attempt to reach her mother. Exploring these issues to a greater extent could help to flush out the text and add weight to the bittersweet resolution.
Director Anna Strasser weaves theatrical elements together well. Her staging and tempo balance the dark comedic moments with the more serious tones of the piece. Her direction indicates a symbiotic appreciation for the author’s work. Strasser and Martsinkovsky present the characters as real (as real as a talking rat can be).
Kat Lee is genuine as Antonia, the college graduate embarking on adulthood. She’s equal parts headstrong, accommodating and naive. Jonathan Hopkins is excellent as R.G., the rat. He is respectful and quite comfortable in the role, and we believe his predicament. He brings a dignity and pathos to R.G. We feel his affection for his human neighbor and the sense of hopelessness of where it will lead.
Monica Lerch’s puppetry is engaging in its select use in the piece. The puppet pieces lit behind the cracked dwelling wall are particularly effective in establishing the presence of our leading rat. It’s stylish and clever, fitting well with the qualities of the one-act.
We hope to see more inventive work from the young artists involved with this short piece.