nytheatre.com review by Matt Roberson
February 27, 2010
Every so often, in chasing theatre across the city, you get the chance to see a show that embodies all the things theatre can do that no other art form can. Catherine Montgomery's Crack'd is this kind of show: bare-boned, personal, fiercely unique, and just a tad bit dangerous. From the opening moments, as Montgomery slides across the empty black stage, gathering together her handful of props, there is a palpable energy emitted here that doesn't let up until the lights go black.
For Crack'd, Montgomery takes on the role of Trace Morgan, a youngish girl grown up far too fast under the distracted gaze of her unhappy mother, a woman prone to bad men and "emotional overloads." Moving for the most part at a breakneck pace, Montgomery acts out various stages in Trace's life, moving effortlessly between childhood and something resembling adulthood. The nonlinear approach, in certain scenes, leaves some question as to exactly which Morgan we are watching. However, as this is a play about the rippling effects a challenged family dynamic can have, whether we are watching the mother or daughter doesn't really change things. If anything, the interrelatedness only serves to make the production more thought-provoking.
Needless to say, however, growing up hasn't been easy on Trace Morgan. With her mother distracted by her own obstacles, Trace moves from being a precocious kid with "sexual orientation problems" to a woman who, during sex, dreams of leading a more productive, more "normal" life. But no matter her dreams for moving on, the attachment between Trace and her past cannot be severed, a fact brilliantly explored through the few props Montgomery has brought on stage. With just a tray, yellow heels, a sheet, an apron, and her mother's menthols, Trace is constantly reminding herself, and us, of the absent mother whom she still loves and desires acceptance from. In this choice in staging, we see that Trace is attached to her mother's "things," her possessions, almost as much as the woman. It's all she has left to hold onto, and through this volumes are said. When these items are put together in a way that they actually resemble the physical shape of the mother, the effect is heartbreaking, and incredibly moving.
Crack'd is clearly the baby of Montgomery and here, in this spartan production, it's her performance that is the highlight. With little other than her craft to lean on, Montgomery's full-bodied approach demands the full attention and engagement of her audience. To be sure, the nature of her style is hyper-performative, which causes an energetic sensation all its own. However, because of how developed the writing and emotional life of Trace's stages are, we're never so bowled over by the spectacle that we lose touch with the person before us. In the midst of the theatrical force that is Catherine/Trace, it is a testament to her control and execution that we aren't allowed to lose sight of the emotional challenges faced by those with tangled upbringings.
Crack'd, with its high energy and raw, emotional display is an assault on all fronts, proving itself to be a beautiful example of the powers of live theatre.