By ROB HANDEL
P.S. 122, 150 First Avenue, NYC
January 7 – 30, 2004
Directed by KEN RUS SCHMOLL
Sets SUE REES
Lighting GARIN MARSCHALL
Costumes MICHELLE R. PHILLIPS
Sound BRAY POOR
Production Stage Managers CARRIE MECONIS, REBECCA SPINAC
Press Representative JIM BALDASSARE
Alma – Jennifer Dundas
Avery – Thomas Ray Ryan
Monica – Alison Weller
A new scandal is a-brew in D.C. An intern named Ilona Waxman has gone missing, and the congressman she has been romantically linked to, Dan Ferris from California, is the media’s target du jour. If you think you know where this is going, then you have yet to see Rob Handel’s APHRODISIAC.
Playwright Handel turns this familiar tale askew by introducing neither the congressman nor his paramour. Instead, we meet Ferris’ children, Alma and Avery, and essentially eavesdrop as they speculate on the incident and enact scenes where they play Dan and Ilona in an attempt to understand what could have really happened to turn their own lives so upside down. They wonder if their father is a killer. They drudge up details of their parents unloving marriage and debate the Clinton-Lewinski affair. They imagine their dad sharing late nights with Bill Clinton, Keith Richards and Willie Nelson, discussing Kurt Cobaine’s suicide, music and cigars. They seek out the nature of the APHRODISIAC that creates such similar circumstances in D.C. over and over again.
APHRODISIAC is impressive, if a bit heavy on the long monologues, especially in Act 1, as the siblings go at it non-stop. This tightens up for the denouement as Alma and Avery, one year later, and having learned that the body of Ilona Waxman has been identified, conjure their very own Monica in a NY coffee bar. Making a brief but dramatic appearance in Act 2, this Monica tells her side of the Bill story in biting, racy detail, captivating not only Alma and Avery, but the audience along with them. She departs, having brought the oddities of D.C., if not full-circle, at least part of the way around.
Having been intrigued by Rob Handel’s creative take and point of view presented in APHRODISIAC, I must say that I do not think his work received the showcase it deserved during the January 14 performance I attended. I went to see the play, but came away with the realization that what I will remember most was Jennifer Dundas’ election to step out of character during Act 1 to directly address the audience about a flickering light with questions such as, "Is that as annoying to you as it is to us?" and "Should we deal with it right now or keep going?". Luckily, those who chose to respond opted for a continuation of the matter at hand. I can only suggest that next time there is a technical difficultly, Ms. Dundas take Alma’s advice to Avery, as spoken in Act 2, "Don’t break character."
- Kessa De Santis -
APHRODISIAC is 13P's third production. Read our reviews of THE INTERNATIONALIST and THE PENETRATION PLAY.