Day: September 12th, 2007

American Sligo

Wednesday, September 12th, 2007 | All Things, Arts

To kick off the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater’s 13th season: the world premiere of Adam Rapp’s new play, American Sligo. Tonight’s first preview played to a packed house; I spied Rapp himself ensconced in the back row of the theater, surrounded by friendly cohorts, a fact which I surmised based on the raucous guffaws I heard emanating from the rear of the house throughout the performance.

Not that there wouldn’t have been laughs otherwise: American Sligo is billed as dark (very dark) comedy, set on the night of wrestling legend Art “Crazy Train” Sligo’s final professional bout. There’s something inherently, absurdly funny about a pot-bellied senior citizen in a shiny red singlet, black eyeliner and jet mullet wig.

Art Sligo (Guy Boyd) is a widower whose chaotic, dysfunctional household is made up of his two troubled sons (Rapp regulars Michael Chernus and Paul Sparks) and a loopy, but well-meaning sister-in-law (a brilliant Marylouise Burke). At the pre-fight dinner which makes up the first act, their guest is a twitchy, hugely devoted fan of Sligo’s (Matthew Stadelmann), who is visiting their Midwestern home as a part of a contest prize. As one disruption after another threatens to derail (or detonate) the evening, Aunt Bobbie desperately powers through the simmering hostilities with her infuriatingly cheery, mindless chatter. Never has two minues of silence been more golden.

Rapp, who made his Off-Broadway directorial debut with his 2006 Pulitzer-nominated Red Light Winter, takes up the directing duties again for American Sligo. As with the playwright’s previous works, the relationships portrayed are complicated, messy, and potentially destructive. Some snippets of dialogue were fiercely funny, while ringing painfully true, which made it all the more disappointing that the overall plot felt to me too contrived. By the melodramatic two-character second act, the play seemed to lose steam before culminating in its tacked on, over-the-top ending.

It will be interesting to see how audiences respond, and if Rapp’s latest piece proves as divisive as his last. Earlier this year, Charles Isherwood (in)famously skewered Rapp’s Essential Self Defense, prompting others, including Edge Theater director Carolyn Cantor and bloggers like Rocco (whom I miscredited as Marian Seldes when this post first went up — sorry!), to leap to the play’s… uh,.. defense. The resulting controversy raised questions about the impartiality of blogosphere reviews. But maybe there’s no such thing as bad publicity?

Outside the theater, on Waverly Place – one of the prettiest and most confounding streets in New York.

Waverly Place

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