THE HOUSE OF MERRY
nytheatre.com review by Jeff Lewonczyk
The house of Merry is a pile of
trash. I'm referring of course to the eponymous dwelling of Lindsay
Sullivan's play The House of Merry. The play itself is far from a
pile of trash, but a few fascinating moments, wonderful images and sharp
performances don't change the fact that it needs some tidying up.
August 15, 2003
Merry (Ann Courtney), a very dirty girl in more ways than one, perches atop the summit of a prodigious pile of assorted garbage. Lou (Micah Bucey), a melodramatic goody-goody who resembles a shiny new action figure, has decided that he is in love with Merry and gingerly but determinedly scales her mountain. Upon arrival he meets Merry's lover Dirty Penny (Christian Bester)—a scurrilous beast with supernatural powers and long, nappy locks of golden hue—and her sister Pet (playwright Sullivan), a sassy little brat dressed all in wedding white.
In a sense the play as a whole is crippled by its most successful moments. The first third of the play concerns itself with Lou's ascent to Merry, and director Paul Mazza employs a bewitchingly slow rhythm to help Sullivan's poetic banter seduce the audience. There is a singular feeling here of something unique transpiring, a perception aided by Bucey's hilariously overblown take on the play's chivalric hero, undercut at every turn by Merry's casual nastiness.
The problem is that once action starts occurring, the language—and with it Bucey's artful performance—become a hindrance. One wishes either that the play continued its dreamy cadence to the finish or else introduced the supporting characters sooner. In the end, whatever statement Sullivan is trying to make about the necessary partnership of order and chaos remains unclear.
But the performers (gleefully costumed by Sara Dunn) all have fine moments, and if Bucey's performance suffers from inflexibility at least it's true to his character. Bester's Dirty Penny strikes the most fruitful balance between artifice and fluidity; he is simultaneously comfortable with the play's gutter humor and its lofty linguistic heights.
Despite my caveats, this show's presence in FringeNYC fills me with cheer. It is an experiment, meaning that it risks failure; but I'd much rather see a show so enthusiastically embrace that risk than smugly grasp for a tepid success.