Stories need structure: less is less
|The Plagiarists presents|
Review by Lawrence Bommer
In a frenzied and ultimately enervating 100 minutes, The Plagiarists attempt, more successfully than they know, to create a “1,001 Nights” that suits the 21st century. Instead of a capricious caliph who weds, beds, then kills a wife every night, there’s an urban terrorist called the Marrying Man who does the same. Now named Sherry and reduced to a kidnap victim rather than princess-for-a-night, the Scheherazade imagined by company playwright Gregory Peters is also a quick-thinking tale-spinner. Except that the stories are never finished, preferring to hook the serial killer with cliffhangers, then switch to another never-to-be-finished story. This structural failure weakens Matryoshka until it never recovers.
What clearly fascinates the author about the original feast of Arabian storytelling (1,001 nights translates to almost three years!) is how one tale seemed to beget another. This version’s title, Matryoshka, refers to Russian “nesting dolls,” which, like flanking mirrors, create an infinite recession, or procession, however you see it.
So Sherry’s desperate fiction-factory erupts with fragmentary, ultimately boring, tales of perilous experiments in cross-species transfers, a mobbed-up comic who gets rubbed out for vague reasons, a screenwriter murdered for no more cause, a selfish groom who lusts for his sister-in-law, a home besieged by zombies, an evil prince who impersonates a powerful sorcerer, the accidental death of a faithless wife, etc.
Alas, these half-baked vignettes and indigestible snippets rush by: None lingers long enough to hold our interest. In the end, surrounded by sirens, the screaming serial murderer rushes off into the arms of the law, and this feckless showcase for bravura anecdotage comes to a welcome end.
Jessica Saxvik certainly conveys Sherry’s survival smarts and her penchant for deft distractions, while Robert Montgomery fulminates well as the men in these short short stories. When they’re not screaming, the cast of nine women and one guy tear into this tissue of fiction as if it really matters. It doesn’t. By the end, Matryoshka is an exercise in futility as much as fiction.
Matryoshka continues through April 13th at Red Tape Theatre, 621 W. Belmont (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays at 8pm (no performances Easter weekend). Tickets are $15-$20, and are available by phone (800-838-3006) or online through BrownPaperTickets.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at ThePlagiarists.org. (Running time: 1 hour 35 minutes, no intermission)
behind the scenes
Jack Dugan Carpenter (director), Shauna Warren (stage manager), Kit Ryan (asst. director), Erin Outson (asst. stage manager), John Jacobsen (lighting), Lauren Angelopoulos (scenic design, props), Melissa Schlesinger (sound design), Emma Cullimore (costumes), Orion Couling (fight choreographer), John Ofori (tech director), Gregory Peters (aritistic director, playwright), Brandy Winefingers, Joe Mazza (photos)