A is for Aardvark
nytheatre.com review by Ross Chappell
August 15, 2004
Don't be put off by the blurb-y description of A is for Aardvark (reclusive millionaire's pet girl falls for new male nurse)—I have rarely been so surprised and so captivated by a production. This show is an astonishingly poignant and direct look at the prisons and cages of everyday life, the ones we create and the ones which are imposed upon us by others. It is also delightfully witty and is incredibly fun to watch. If you can imagine these two traits so intertwined that you can hardly tell one from the other, then you begin to understand the gem that Jess Lacher has created.
Lacher’s dark comedy begins with a mother’s gut-wrenching tale of a missing daughter. And then, moments later, the audience is cackling with laughter as we meet the heroine of this play, a young girl who believes she is an aardvark, and the mostly-mad millionaire who keeps her as a pet. It is difficult to say which is funnier, the aardvark’s antics or the millionaire’s lunacy. But none of it feels gratuitous. The aardvark clearly has more to her story. The millionaire knows he is mad. Lacher’s brilliance is in the way she keeps the audience laughing during the painstakingly slow realization that our aardvark wasn’t captured in a prison, she escaped from one. The multiple layers of metaphor become apparent only as the story progresses and the depth of the characters is revealed.
As genuinely remarkable as Lacher’s script is, it simply could not survive a mediocre cast—all of its cleverly disguised subtlety would be lost. Laura Grey (Aardvark) is utterly stunning. The transition of her character is breathtaking in the end. She is as comfortable with physical comedy as she is with evoking deep emotion with little more than her facial expressions. Her rapid-fire emotional changes and line delivery are fabulous.
D. Michael Berkowitz (the millionaire) is a marvel. His delivery of lines like “Well, I can’t drink real liquor, I’m almost entirely insane” had the entire audience hooting with laughter. His physicality, voice, and complete possession by this character are spectacular and had me totally enthralled. He, too, did a superb job of eliciting both laughter and empathy.
Sarah Brown's work as the mother is beautiful. Maureen Towey’s direction is admirable given the constraints of the space. Her careful pacing demonstrates a clear understanding of the author’s intent.
Simply put: see this show as soon as possible.