Fay Lindsay-Jones Story
nytheatre.com review by Matthew Trumbull
August 11, 2006
A Fay Lindsay-Jones story, we learn in this fast-paced, biting satire, is a brand. "Fay Lindsay-Jones helped me lose 100 pounds." "Fay Lindsay-Jones made me a household name." "Fay Lindsay-Jones made me a better person." Like all eponymous brands, it has humble beginnings in an individual life, and we watch this woman becoming a televised guru of inspiration, a fated figure in the lives of her followers, and an assassinated martyr. Her life, one of freak accidents and delirious fame, fits very nicely into a manipulative television documentary, and that is the hilarious and absurd style of the play. The actors, with the exception of subversively earnest Carissa Zeleski as Fay, take on multiple characters who speak directly to the audience and identify themselves by name and relevance to Lindsay-Jones story. Before they turn to one another to enact a moment from the life of the main character, they grimly announce to the audience in unison: "Dramatization."
The world of this play is fame-obsessed, and its two main characters, aspiring film actress Fay and her unsuccessful, screenplay-writing assassin, Roger Tobler, the evening's narrator, are linked in more ways than their mutual scramble for stardom. Their lives criss-cross repeatedly, and in one of these chance encounters, the only copy of Roger's greatest screenplay (typewritten) exchanges hands. Though a copier accident destroys the screenplay and puts Fay in a wheelchair for the rest of her life, her subsequent rise to fame contrasts with the bitter failure and blame that leads Roger to gun her down mid-broadcast of her wildly popular TV show. How exactly this assassin gets chosen to lionize his victim as the narrative voice in a documentary tribute to her is the deliciously twisted focus of the evening's latter half.
Director Gerritt Turner has done a splendid job of keeping the play in a whirlwind energy that matches its fantastical events. There is a gleeful, Fringey delight in the show's low-budget mimicry of slickly edited television, particularly set designer Jessica Pabst's copier and its smoke-and paper-spewing special effects during the "dramatization" of Fay's crippling disaster. The cast is unequivocally nimble with both physical timing and character traits.
Though Fay Lindsay-Jones Story is currently in production as a film, the power of playwright Greg Emetaz's satire is keenly felt under the scrutiny of live theatre. The storytelling devices he employs—particularly characters keenly aware of the audience and their place in a story, and "fourth wall" scenes intermittent with narration and direct audience address—serve the double function of increasing the stakes for the characters onstage and sharpening the audience's awareness of the "big picture" by allowing moments of detached reflection in the company of a narrator they trust. That there is more than meets the eye with this particular narrator (played deftly by Jonathan Whittle) only increases the intrigue of the evening, and delivers a surprising payoff at the end. This is a piece that is unique, edgy, and eclectic—exactly what FringeNYC is meant to deliver. Highly recommended.