The Last Dance of Marsha Kane (Sugarcoating the Inevitable)
nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
August 9, 2008
"Am I thirsty or do I miss my mom?" asks writer/performer Rena Hundert as the indomitable Marsha Kane, a young woman who celebrates her life as she waits for death. Hundert's performance has all the charm it will ever need because it's clear that she loves this character. Her subject may be bleak but you'd never know it. Hundert makes death seem as cozy as life.
Marsha Kane has just lost her mother and this makes her very aware of her own mortality. She is now alone in the world except for her friend Morris—whom she loves but who doesn't love her in return—and a waitress named Francine, whom Morris desires but from whom he doesn't receive the time of day. Kane goes on and on about seemingly insignificant events in her life with the enthusiasm of a school kid who has been asked what they did that day. She is even costumed perfectly like a private school kid (costumes are by Lara Kaluza). This enthusiasm and excitement really drew me into the performance. Hundert uses waiting for the bus as a metaphor for waiting for death, but it isn't clear why she is dying. In fact, up until the end I wasn't entirely sure if she was dying or not.
Hundert's script does an excellent job of skirting around its subject matter without becoming too sad or self-indulgent. It is very honest and that's what appealed to me the most about it. Hundert goes from being a somewhat existential adult to a frightened child without missing a beat and that gave me a wonderful sense of the tug of war between life and death. Her script is also very subtly funny. There is a nice balance of profundity and silliness. It slips in and out of stories and then back to the present situation until it finally loops around to its inevitable ending.
Hundert's acting style swings from being an actor doing a first-person-storyteller bit to a real person exposing her innermost fears and useless dreams. This doesn't always work for her, but she never appears to be uncommitted to her role. She is, without a measure of doubt, sunk deep into the role and seems to know the character inside and out. She really "sells" this character. However, despite all this enthusiasm, there are many moments when I had to strain to hear her. The Players' Loft is an intimate space and I should not have lost a word. Her director, Jeremy Taylor, should have picked up on this. Still, I did enjoy Taylor's vision of a face paced, high-energy performance with lots of mood lighting courtesy of Ronan Kilkelly.
This show has everything it needs to be a quality fringe show—a good script, a high-energy performance, and a creator who pours every ounce of love she has into it.