nytheatre.com review by Chris Harcum
April 26, 2009
What happens when you have something stolen from you? If it's a pen, it can be a minor irritation; a wallet, it might make you feel vulnerable to harsh reality; and if it's a part of you, emotional or physical, it can be devastating. Adam Szymkowicz's new play Pretty Theft, produced by the Flux Theatre Ensemble, explores the last of these to chilling effect.
In a world filled with idiosyncratic people operating with cryptic or dubious motives stands Allegra, who plans on going to Dartmouth and seems as normal as you can get. Within a couple of scenes, she becomes surrounded by a caustic mother, a dying father, a bad girl/small-time thief, an autistic savant, and a smug boyfriend who suffers from a terminal case of being a guy. The counterpoint plot is anchored around a mysterious man named Marco and the conversational card game he plays with a waitress who slowly starts to fall for him. Eventually the stories of the girls, family, and the secretive past spin together and shatter.
Marnie Schulenburg plays Allegra with many emotional colors and easily gains your sympathy. Suzy, in the hands of Maria Portman Kelly, is a girl you like but hate at the same time. Brian Pracht's turn as Joe is engaging and disquieting. Zack Robidas is solid as the smug Bobby, who is sometimes hilarious when the tables turn on him. Todd d'Amour gives an effortless performance as the charming but terrifying Marco. Bonus points must be given to Candice Holdorf, Lynn Kenny, and Cotton Wright who have the protean jobs of playing supporting roles, transforming the scenery, and dancing ballet.
Director Angela Astle has shaped this play with attention to detail. The ingenuity of her staging and the textured performances she draws from her cast are commendable. Some of the credit for this may go to choreographer Ashley Martinez who supplied the dancers with simple but effective ballet sequences. Heather Cohn's smart set gives the many scenes a complete look using less than normally would be required and makes the scene changes painless to watch. Likewise, Becky Kelly's costumes are well-considered and spot on with a great use of color. Andrew Fritsch's lighting design and Kevin Fuller's sound design add to this half-realistic, half-impressionistic world in frequently subtle ways.
Adam Szymkowicz has written a play full of interesting people. One in which being offbeat is sought after. The most devastating thing to me in the evening wasn't the titular theft but the reaction of another character to not being worthy enough to be stolen from as well. When these characters stop working so hard at being peculiar, they become surprising. The dialogue and humor in this play are excellent but at times I found the brevity of the scenes leaving me out in the cold just as I was getting involved in what was happening. Because I cared so much about some of the characters, I wish the events of the last few scenes of the play grew more from out of the characters rather than colliding randomly.
Flux Theatre Ensemble should be commended for putting this together so tastefully. It runs a lean, intermission-less 90 minutes and is very satisfying. It's too bad it probably would not be done at high schools and some colleges because of the mature content. This would be good theater for young women not only to see but also to perform. Here's hoping it reaches them anyway.