According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Savage in Limbo

Stuck between living and existing, a 32-year old virgin aggravates everyone around her with her rejection of routines and her push for innovation. With a tepid start and glaring production flaws, Savage in Limbo is far from perfect, but does boast a solid cast and great barroom philosophies.
Rebecca Whitehurt as Denise Savage in Savage in Limbo

Reviewed by Cindy Pierre

32-year old virgin Denise Savage (Rebecca Whitehurst) has an itch, and she's going to make sure that everyone at a Bronx pay-as-you-go bar tries to scratch it in The Process Group's production of John Patrick Shanley's Savage in Limbo. While nursing a couple of drinks, Savage starts vomiting her woes about her stagnant life and self-imposed chastity belt in the presence of her old classmates who are either equally disgruntled or in booze-inspired denial. There is Murk (Henry Zebrowski), a surly bartender with a limited soft side, April White (Brooke Delaney), a former nun hopeful now turned alcoholic, and Linda Rotunda (Jenny Grace), a recently abandoned girlfriend who takes pride in being a good bedmate.

It's the mid-80s, and with the exception of Murk and April who are like stationary parts of the set, everyone makes a narcissistic entrance. Unfortunately, their excessively-teased hair and authentic period garb by Katherine Brown aren't enough to make the audience take note of their arrival. Savage arrives first without pop, entering from the house under Bryan Close's direction. The long walk to the stage suggests that the bar is cavernous, but the mere two tables on stage that are set wide apart don't. And as it is clear that the bar only serves up drinks minus any entertainment or food, the implied size is impractical. The mistake to have the cast enter through the audience is further enhanced later when bonehead Tony Aronica (Robert Bray), former lover and Monday "workout" to Linda, carries on a conversation with Linda and Denise while retreating, forcing the audience to split their focus between opposite ends.

For the first half or so, Linda and Denise rekindle their acquaintance and disdain of one another. Their banter is so effortless and stereotypically Italian that it is as if they are carrying on in an SNL version of a women of the Sopranos spin-off. As Linda and Denise compare notes on each other's sucky lives, April and Murk sit by like two stooges with no life of their own. This is a faux-pass because we learn later that something is indeed brewing between these two, and they could have participated as more than observers for the better part of the play. Important information and good dialogue is exchanged between the two, but their rapid tongue fire makes us aware that this bar play is in desperate need of some background music. Everyone wants change from the mundane, and when Tony appears to explain his breakup with Linda, the determined five mix and match their destinies to come up with some illogical but decidedly different next steps.

creates some strong, dysfunctional characters, most impressively with Linda and Denise. Grace and Whitehurst are dominant forces, dueling for titles in the most willful, most abrasive, and most compelling categories, but through Denise, Whitehurst wins for the most gutsy. Linda is both a novelty-seeking missile and a skeeball hurling herself towards several slots at once for any type of deviation. Yet, the prison of habits that she finds herself in is one that she has created for herself by attempting to defy habit. For even a path defined by constant change is a rigid path, and methods can never truly be escaped.

Although The Process Group's production of Savage in Limbo can use some reconfiguring, the script is a lot deeper than anticipated and pleasantly unpredictable. There are some great philosophies hidden behind the leotards and all that hairspray,which is one of the points that the characters try to make: there is more to them than meets the eye. Savage in Limbo teaches that if you don't like the cards in life that you've drawn, you can always shuffle the deck. However, own them and consider them before you return them and know that proof of life isn't always in a queen or a king.


Through November 4th.

Tickets: $25. 212-868-4444.

Duo Theater: 62 East 4th Street, NY, NY 10003.

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