nytheatre.com review by Joe Murphy
If you’re in the mood for a
frenetic, non-linear, even bizarre theatrical experience, albeit one
anchored by an electrifying performance, fourtyseven might be for
you. If you’re not into racking your brain to figure out what’s
happening on stage, well, there are 180 or so other shows at FringeNYC
you could see instead.
August 15, 2002
If you’re game, fourtyseven introduces you to a superheroine, The Pharoah’s Daughter, and her alter-ego, the troubled, institutionalized teenager Veronika. The dual roles, and an assortment of other odd characters, are all played by the energetic and pliant Nicole Manek. She stomps, she crawls, she sprints, she dances—and that’s just her body. Her expressive face stretches and contorts, accompanied by a variety of voices, to animate the circle of people who inhabit the strange fantasy world consisting of Veronika, her odd family, and her eccentric friends. The plot, suggestive of a comic book as Timothy Leary might have written it, has something to do with a sinister experimental drug regimen foisted on some unsuspecting young subjects. Then again it also has to do with a (possible) murder, a graffiti-scrawling punk girl, a maternal arch-villain, and several other strands that are, putting it mildly, complicated to relate.
The schizoid narrative jumps quickly and often from one perspective to another, thus mirroring Veronika’s confused mental state, which is a neat dramatic choice. The intricate and colorful lighting scheme, moody pop music, and the sound design’s distorted disembodied voices work with the manic actor and the stylistic set to add to the trippiness. Initially curled up on a white mental hospital bed, Manek doesn’t just act around the set, she literally de-constructs and re-constructs it several times, moving it around piece by piece, always in character.
The overall experience is an intense, multi-sensory kaleidoscope. What it means in the end, I don’t know, but the building blocks, human and technical, make it worth the confusion.
fourtyseven (which refers, presumably, to the patient ID number on Veronika’s institution-issued shirt) was created by Manek and director Margaret Smith and produced by the Canadian theatre company Tecumseth Massive.