Anais Nin Goes to Hell
nytheatre.com review by Roger Nasser
August 8, 2008
Imagine an island off the coast of Hades where five women from different historical times are stranded waiting for their men to come and save them. They are Cleopatra, Queen Victoria, Joan of Arc, Andromeda, and Heloise (of Abelard and Heloise). The women cannot leave the island because there is a giant Hydra circling it. The Hydra has eaten one of the women who had tried to get away. Then add into the mix 20th century feminist and erotica writer Anais Nin and you have the premise of Anais Nin Goes to Hell.
The island is "ruled" by Queen Victoria, who claimed the island in the name of England, and she is assisted by sword-wielding Joan of Arc. Things get shaken up a bit when Anais Nin comes to the island. Anais tries to show the women that they have no need for men. Some realize she is right and are changed by their interactions with her. Then Cleopatra, who boasts that she has the power to bring any man to the island, delivers—and Lord Alfred Douglas swims ashore. He wasn't exactly the man the women had hoped for.
This production has a lot going for it. I enjoyed the way that the characters interacted with one another, especially Andromeda and Heloise. I was also amused by the interactions and budding friendship of Queen Victoria and Lord Alfred "Bosie" Douglas. It also has a great premise and a very enjoyable musical interlude.
The cast does a great job bringing to life these out-of-place characters. Shelly Feldman is quite convincing as Anais Nin and gives a very thoughtful performance. Madalyn McKay is hysterical as Queen Victoria. Jeremy King is delightful as the foppish "Bosie." Marnie Schulenburg is lovely, capturing the beauty and innocence of Andromeda. Aly Wirth gives a great performance as Heloise, and seemed to be an audience favorite.
The sparse sets by Stephanie Tucci give the proper feel of some type of limbo-like place. David "DW" Withrow did a fantastic job with costumes, especially since every character is for the most part from a different time period.
David Stallings has written an oftentimes very funny script. It's nice to see a play that relies on strong women. The relationships he created for the characters are extremely interesting. There were moments however that at times seemed a bit repetitive. Cristina Alicea did an admirable job directing this piece and leading a very talented group of actors.