Justine Moore, the writer and performer of this 80-minute solo piece, had a horrific adolescence that she survived to talk about — vividly. With an admirable ear and tongue for different voices and a supple body capable of forming discernible stances, she re-creates 11 characters (three of them male), including her 16-year-old self and her 38-year-old current incarnation. Unfortunately, as good as much of the evening is, the singularity of her experience can sometimes make it difficult for audience empathy, and the hopeful coda to her piece feels unearned.
Moore's autobiographical narrative focuses on one 24-hour period in her hometown of Taos, N.M., in 1986. Justine, the neglected daughter of hippies, is insecure about everything, close to suicidal, and more than experimenting with drugs. Her high school nickname is the Ice Queen, and her latest drug of choice is the newly available pharmaceutical-grade Ecstasy, at first wrongly thought to be relatively harmless. Justine doesn't even trust her more upbeat best friend, Crystal, who is also the Anglo daughter of hippies. That tribe comprises 10 percent of the population of Taos, mightily resented by the local Spaniards, who trace their ancestry back to the land grant days of the 1500s, and the American Indians, who have been on the land even longer than that.
Justine has been serially raped by teenage boys from these other two groups and is about to be again by the psychopathic villain Victor, at a "rager," a freewheeling house party minus chaperones that is the only social function regularly attended by all three local ethnicities. At various times in her reminiscences, if that's the word, the present-day Moore steps out of her characters to comment as herself on a broader social problem, such as teenaged suicides. In one aside she gives us a chilling vision of the vile Victor later in life. We would have welcomed such updates on Crystal and Alex, the Latino object of the younger Justine's desire.
As director Frederick Johntz is also awarded a "developed by" credit, it's especially hard to figure out where the author-actor leaves off and Johntz takes over. But while he obviously encouraged Moore's consistent physical and vocal separation of characters, he clearly stayed out of the way of her central vision.
Presented by and at La Mama E.T.C.,
74A E. Fourth St., NYC.
Oct. 24-Nov. 2. Fri. and Sat., 10 p.m.; Sun., 5:30 p.m.
(212) 352-3101 or (866) 811-4111 or www.theatermania.com or www.lamama.org.