A student holds her feminist professor captive in this engaging show about an idol gone human. With a good script, tight direction and strong performances, The Alice Complex is a gem in the Fringe ocean.
Reviewed by Cindy Pierre
Peter Barr Nickowitz is one ballsy playwright. The Alice Complex, his play about a student that takes a feminist author/professor (loosely based on Germaine Greer) hostage, is not a pool that men generally want to dip their toe in, let alone the cannonball that Nickowitz takes from the diving board. Luckily for the audience, there's plenty of water to break his fall with a stellar cast, strong direction, and an impressive script.
When 56-year old feminist professor Sally (Obie winner Lisa Banes) preps her pot roast and table for a dinner party, she never imagines that distraught student Rebecca (Tony Award nominee Xanthe Elbrick) would show up at her door, seeking help. It's fine to say feminist and pot roast in the same sentence, because 25 years after her first book, The Alice Complex, goes to print, Sally's views on life, womanhood and the patriarchal society in which she lives, changes radically. She's now embracing the very things that she was spouting against back when she was young and brimming with passion. And unfortunately for Sally, Rebecca is mad as heck that her former idol is now Martha Stewart. She's so pissed that she entraps Sally's sensibilities with a cockamamie story about being date-raped before she pounces with her true intention: she wants to know how and why Sally got soft.
In a series of flashbacks, flashforwards, monologues, and play-within-a-play schemes, Nickowitz gives the audience the deconstructed answers (and more) to those questions. In addition to younger and older versions of their main characters, Banes and Elbrick also play nine other enriching characters, and sort of brings the thought of walking in another's shoes to fruition. (At one point, Sally snaps "I used to be you," and theatrically, it's true.) The dialogue is snappy and funny, and these gifted actresses do more than justice to it under Bill Oliver's controlled direction. In roughly 75 minutes, the show takes us on a rollercoaster ride of what it means to model oneself after an idol that doesn't live up to the standard. It's emotional, intellectual, and good fun. And judging by the raucous laughter from the men that attended the performance I saw, men can dig it too. Like Alice in Wonderland, The Alice Complex may have elements of fantasy and mystery, but it's all substance.
Tickets: $15. http://www.fringenyc.org/ The Cherry Lane Theatre: 38 Commerce Street
8/8 at 4:45pm, 8/12 at 7pm, 8/15 at 4:45, 8/16 at 9:30pm, 8/21 at 9:30pm
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.