Three Angels Dancing on a Needle
nytheatre.com review by Mark DeFrancis
June 15, 2007
You can do a lot of things with a play. You can fill it with talented actors. You can cover it with great choices, props, lights, and energy. You can dress it up however you like, but it will still be the play you started with. Three Angels Dancing on a Needle by Assurbanipal Babilla, at the Pretentious Festival, sadly suffers from this very problem.
The piece primarily consists of three long monologues, which illuminate its three characters. Merry Jo Pitasi brings a riveting presence and dynamic chops to the role of a desperate woman trying to sell a dirty t-shirt while expunging her deep sexual frustration to her would-be buyer. Her physicality and warmth help bring life and occasional humor to this mad woman and her quest for a lowly ten dollars and some acceptance.
She is followed by Odell Rivas portraying an unrequited lover whose lustful fantasy is likened to medical healing. His pain and pleasure are fused and raised to spiritual proportions, which is at times exciting and at other times pretentious babble. Rivas throws himself into the role with as much charisma as he can summon and director Michael Yawney's visceral use of props is most apparent in a bowl of water which doubles for the object of desire.
Finally, Miriam Kulick applies a cold rigor to her portrayal of a battered wife set free by her husband's suicide. Thankfully she has been given an actual story to tell and brings an animalistic sensuality, which this piece so desperately needs.
The play is also loaded with self-referential discussion. Actors will interrupt their monologues, break character, and openly comment on their characters, playwright, and director in a manner which not only undercuts any characters they have formed but also makes the whole piece come across as one large inside joke at the Brick Theater. These segments, while refreshing, are also very off-putting. If a statement about the actor's relationship to the elements of theatre is being made, it is in no way relevant to the rest of the play and halts any attempt at engaging the audience with the material.
Unfortunately, one leaves Three Angels more confused then entertained. I would love to see this same team of actors and director do just about any other show any other time, but I sadly cannot recommend this piece.