nytheatre.com review by Josh Sherman
July 16, 2008
A few years ago there was a car commercial where a young woman gets a brand new Honda Civic hatchback. She's always in the driver's seat. And the circumstances around her keep changing, and with each passing sequence there's a new man in the passenger seat. Her clothes change, her attitudes change, sometimes there's a pet...but she's always got her trusty Honda Civic. The underlying theme is that the men are in rotation but the car is a constant—an effective advertisement for its target audience, presumably young independent women.
Quake, a one-act by Melanie Marnich presented by On The Square Productions, tries for a similar demographic through a similar storyline involving a woman named Lucy and her cross-country journey to find love. And by love, I mean her bedding every man she encounters. While I do believe quite firmly in self-determination when it comes to charting one's own life course—and by no means would I describe myself as a feminist—I found it incredibly difficult, and sexist, to root for a heroine who only defines herself by her variety of sexual partners. And because Lucy only seems to reflect the other characters of Quake, it leaves us knowing precious little about this protagonist which makes it hard to care about her struggles in romance.
It would also help to know any kind of back story for the Lucy character, other than her inexplicable obsession with a rogue female astrophysicist serial killer, known only as That Woman. There are several vague references to both geography and geology that fail to resonate—is Lucy a scientist, or does she just want to be one because her heroine is a killer queen bee scientist? Quake moves in and out of reality, dream sequences and locations as Lucy attempts to discover herself through her encounters (again, mostly sexual) with the people she meets on the mythical road.
Marnich's writing aspires to be lyrical and/or poetic in most of Lucy's dialogue, and accomplishes that in a few passages, but curiously her prose resonates better through the surrounding characters rather than with her lead. Director Miguel Rosales gets the most out of a quality ensemble, with some excellent moments from Eric Fleming as two of the men in Lucy's life, and a hilarious turn from Kristy Powers as a country hick/store clerk. Adam Gutbezahl shows off some nice range in the legitimately creepy role of an auto mechanic.
But the principal problem with Quake is that Lucy is a two-dimensional oversexed coquette, and nothing more. There is not even an explanation for the title of the play, other than the fact that Lucy winds up alone in San Francisco. I failed make any kind of emotional connection with Lucy. As it turns out, I feel like I knew about the life of the girl in the Honda Civic commercial after 30 seconds than I ever did about the character of Lucy during the one hour and fifteen minutes of Quake.