nytheatre.com review by Lee Ramsey
August 15, 2004
Geek Love is an adaptation of Katherine Dunn's cult classic novel from the 80s. It's the story of the Binewski family and the rise and fall of their traveling sideshow, The Binewski Family Fabulon.
Al Binewski, a showman, meets Crystal Lil, a very beautiful and refined geek (she's kind of a Gypsy Rose Lee who bites the heads off chickens and drinks their blood). Al and Crystal Lil get the idea to breed their own freak show attractions by taking all sorts of dangerous drugs during Crystal Lil's pregnancies. Along with several mistakes that are kept in jars (pickled punks), they produce Olympia, a bald albino-hunchback; Auturo the flipper boy, a bald wheelchair-bound man with flippers instead of arms and legs who performs in a fish tank; Iphigenia and Electra, a set of piano-playing Siamese-twins; and Fortunato (Randy Havens) a six-foot-tall five-year-old with telekinetic powers.
During the course of the play, Auturo becomes the leader of a cult of hundreds who all cut off their limbs to be like him; a baby with a tail is born out of incest; a strange woman named Miss Lick finds underprivileged women whom she maims in order to make them realize their potential; another baby named Mumpo the Mountain, a huge creature that never stops eating, is born out of what might be considered the rape of the Siamese twins by a huge limping, flatulating man with no face; a reporter comes to the side show bearing his testicles in a jar; and there's a huge fire.
There is very rich source material here, to say the least; unfortunately the adapters Aileen Loy and Mike Katinsky try to do way too much of it. They stick so closely to the novel (and they are obviously very passionate about it) that the plot just becomes incomprehensible. The play lasts three hours. Loy also directs, but the pace is very slow and there are long and unnecessary blackouts between scenes.
The large cast seems inexperienced and under-rehearsed and some speak so quickly and have such poor diction that we become even more confused. But there are some standouts: Anessa Ramsey does a very nice job as Olympia, who also serves as our narrator; Jeffrey Zwartjes is good as Arturo the flipper boy, though he doesn't have the charisma to pull off the second half of the play when he's elevated to the position of megalomaniac religious leader; and Loy is a lot of fun as Doc P, sort of a cross between Selma Diamond and Harvey Fierstein.
There are a lot of nice special effects, but some of the technical aspects of the play don't seem to be working. In this instance, and under Fringe conditions, I think simplicity would have been the best bet.
Geek Love is an ambitious project and it has a lot of potential, but it needs to be refined and reshaped so that it can be understood by its audience.