As the audience enters The Ready storefront space in Lincoln Square, they’re asked to take off their coats and shoes and don threadbare pink slippers before entering the theater. Inside, the black box theater has been transformed into an oval or lozenge, with two tiers of hard wooden bleachers for seating. All is painted bordello red, with old-fashioned fringed lamps enhancing the atmosphere of a house of ill-repute. A woman in black lies immobile below red gauze, while three women holding infants pace around the middle of the room, muttering, trying to hold onto their shifting, kicking, wailing cargo.
This is the setting for Theatre Y’s revival of András Visky’s 2002 tribute to his mother’s heroic 22-year survival in a communist Romanian prison camp with her seven children (he was the youngest). The woman in black (Melissa Lorraine) rises and performs a 75-minute monologue. A mix of biblical stories, Shakespeare, and plaintive anguish, it is a naked cry of pain in the wilderness and Lorraine’s performance holds little back. This is why the decor and those women with babies puzzle me.
The women reappear at odd times throughout the monologue, often on a hidden tier behind the audience. The shape of the seating makes it impossible to see all three of them at any one time, but the occasional wails of the infants make them an inescapable distraction. Meant, I suppose, as an evocation alternately of guardian angels and a kind of Greek chorus, they instead take focus away from the main performance. As does the bizarre decor and scene-setting. It is all unnecessary window-dressing for a piece whose words can carry a powerful message without any props needed. v