Rattlestick Playwrights Theater
By CHRISTOPHER DENHAM
Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, 224 Waverly Place, NYC
May 10 through June 18, 2006
Directed by ADAM RAPP
Scenic Design JOHN McDERMOTT
Costume Design ERIKA MUNRO
Lighting Design ED McCARTHY
Sound Design ERIC SHIM
Fight Director RICK SORDELET
Production Stage Manager PAIGE VAN DEN BURG
Press Representation OPR/ORIGLIO PUBLIC RELATIONS
Daniel Eric Gold – Sam
Gillian Jacobs – Katie
Emily Cass McDonnell – Ellen
Have you ever known one of those horribly incompatible couples who insist that they love each other madly and compound looming disaster by planning to get married? One of those couples is at the center of CAGELOVE, a new and unnerving play that succeeds more as convolution than drama. By the end, the audience is left as much in the dark as the characters that populate this dysfunctional, depressing and paranoid relationship, and not in a good way.
The conflict driving CAGELOVE is the recent rape of one half of the loving couple, Katie, at the hands of ex-boyfriend, James, who has been arrested for the crime. As her wedding to Sam nears, her physical wounds have not healed, and the emotional ones are not self-evident. Sam has become both worried about and suspicious of Katie. When her sister, Ellen, starts showing up, the waters really muddy. James, the omnipresent bogey man, never appears onstage. He may, however, be making obscene calls from jail.
The main problem with CAGELOVE is that, despite all of the heavy topics, in the end, none of the characters is particularly likeable, and even worse, I did not care about what happens to them, or what brought them to this place. Sam evolves from caring and confused fiancé to a mental Michael Myers as Katie goes from unlikely victim, based on her demeanor, to a manipulated mess. These are loveless people who seem to bring out the worst in one another. Katie has been raped by an ex-lover, but somehow cannot keep herself away from his place, the scene of the crime. Sam is a mixture of sympathetic and suspicious at first, quickly turning paranoid and morbidly fixated to the point of engaging in a crude, horror-movie inspired reenactment of the assault. Ellen acts as little more than a destructive device. She shows up and does more to sabotage her sister’s relationship than to ease her discomfort.
To give the actors credit, they do the best to work with the characters and the plot as presented. The design team of CAGELOVE fare better, using their talents to set a stage, complete with edgy lighting and sound design to complement the more horror-inspired aspects of the play.
CAGELOVE is most disturbing in ways I am sure the playwright and director never intended. The whole exercise comes across as charade. The concepts of rape, betrayal, fear and the rest present as just that – concepts on a page or in the actors’ minds that there is no literal link to. I felt uneasy from the apparent lack of connection between the events being presented onstage and the way they were portrayed. The characters do not react logically or effectively, delving instead into a superficial fear factor that may have moments, but which ultimately robs this play of resonance and importance.
- Kessa De Santis -