Out of Control
nytheatre.com review by Jo Ann Rosen
July 18, 2008
It might be sort of fun to put a cup to the wall and listen in on a group therapy session where talk of drugs, shopping, and sex are prominent. The opportunity presents itself in Bridget Harris's play Out of Control, where four female characters meet regularly at Overindulgers Anonymous to discuss their obsessions and addictions.
There are four women in the group: Sweetie, a weed-addicted, under-educated single mother who wants more than her menial job working at a diner. Bent on improving her lot, she studies with Brenda, a clear-eyed, self-assured character who joins the group out of friendship with Sweetie; also members of the group are Dolores, a shopaholic, who craves the attention of her husband; and Bunny, a sex-starved sales clerk who grabs attention whenever she can. The women invite Peter Quick, a clean-cut-looking motivational speaker, to address their group on the New Feminism. In town for a month, he speaks to the group periodically, and all but Brenda are inspired by and attracted to him. Brenda sees what we see—a little bit shyster, a potential cad, a hidden agenda that she hasn't quite figured out yet. Overindulgers Anonymous serves as a good excuse to figure out why Peter, who serves as a catalyst for change, is in town. An enigmatic sixth character, Mary, works in a diner with Sweetie.
Under Leah Bonvissuto's direction, the many, many scenes change quickly while the cast push black blocks around the stage in preparation for subsequent action. Music eases the scene transitions. Bonvissuto extracts some nice performances, particularly from Beverley Prentice, who grounds the play with her practical, plain-speaking Brenda, and Maria Portman Kelly, who brings superb nuance to the role of Mary. Both add spark and emotional depth to Out of Control.
There is also a fine dramatic moment from Kat Ross at the end, when she sheds the sweet persona of Sweetie and finds an inner and physical strength to confront Peter, played by Danaher Dempsey. The issue here is that there is no previous evidence to back up this capability. Yes, there was a mention of martial arts, but nothing in Sweetie's behavior indicated any interest or talent in this area. Bonvissuto could have had some fun with this in the staging, and Harris might have incorporated some subtle dialog to bring credibility to the moment. Marcia Leigh and Dorothy Frey fill out the cast as Bunny and Dolores, respectively.
Catherine Fisher designed the many daywear costumes. Jesse Vacchiano designed the lighting.