nytheatre.com review by Aimee Todoroff
August 20, 2011
When most of us want to escape our humdrum lives and delve into a fantasy world, we go to the movies. In Paper Cut, a lonely secretary brings the movies to her, playing out her fantasy world by using the paper objects she has at her disposal to daydream about a relationship with her sonorously voiced boss, cleverly recreating story lines from the golden age of Hollywood. At first, the story she dreams up seems to be a saccharine romance, her paper dolls destined for a happy ending. But as the events of real life darken our heroine’s mood, the story twists into a psychological thriller with nods to Rebecca and Gaslight, among other classic films.
Yael Rasooly not only plays the Secretary in this one-woman show, she self-directed and co-wrote the piece with Lior Lurman. As the Secretary, Rasooly disarms the audience and drives the show. She has an uncanny talent for mimicry and dialects, giving voice to numerous characters throughout the 50-minute show, including the hilariously sinister French maid Georgette, and flipping through a series of a dozen or so languages with ease. She also sings a medley of popular tunes from the 1940s in a style similar to the frantic impersonations of Jane Horrocks in the 1998 film Little Voice. For those who know the reference, you know just how impressive that is, and for those who don’t, suffice to say it’s a feat of vocal dexterity that is at once dizzying and spellbinding. This talented actress ushers us along the highs and lows of her story with a confidence that thoroughly charms.
While the storyline could be strengthened in places, there is always something exciting to watch as the Secretary finds new and interesting ways to manipulate the paper. Simple actions such as tearing or crumbling become comic bits in Rasooly’s capable hands. The theme of the classic Hollywood movie is reinforced throughout the play, and is especially effective when she uses perspective to mimic the movement of film. At one point, the heroine of the story faints and, upon waking, the paper image of her husband twirls until he is upright in her field of vision like so many shots familiar from films like Vertigo and Notorious. In another instance, a series of paper dolls march across the Secretary’s desk, each larger than the last, creating the illusion that the character is bearing down on the heroine and building up a sense of imminent danger using the simple tools of size, proximity and repetition. The effect is equally playful and chilling.
The simple set consists of the Secretary’s desk and not much else; a smart way to communicate the office and to conceal the paper objects in various drawers until each new piece is delightfully revealed. The sound design, including music and voiceovers throughout, successfully creates a sense of the world outside of the Secretary’s head. The already strong production could have been even tighter had a director outside of the performance been there to craft the story. The pace was a steady progression of beats when some variation would have been useful, and there were some moments in the plot that a director could have clarified. Still, this show never ceased being sweetly entertaining. The use of the paper objects pushes this performance beyond a standard one-woman show and borders on the territory of clowning. By approaching the story with a wholehearted commitment to experimentation, the creative team behind Paper Cut, and especially its star, has produced exactly the kind of play one hopes to see in the FringeNYC Festival.