Presented by and at the Vineyard Theatre, 108 E. 15 St., NYC, Oct. 8-Nov. 11.
Written and directed by Doug Wright, "Unwrap Your Candy" at the Vineyard Playhouse is a delicious, comic-macabre melding of actors and audiences. The four-part, 90-minute, intermissionless evening suggests Alfred Hitchcock and Charles Addams in its gleeful mocking of viewers' perceptions.
Wright, praised for his "Quills" on stage and film, again visits odd notions and peculiar characters who live barely this side of derangement. His work insinuates just below conscious level, like a headache without origin or reason.
Even the interludes between playlets erase divisions. Spots hit individual audience members who delightfully squirm as their supposed thoughts—making out shopping lists, commenting on the evening—are heard.
The first sketch has the actors as our mirror images, facing us in similar theatre seats, musing on their cell phones, hearing aids, and unwrapped candy. Part two is a "reading" on the transforming death of a violin prodigy.
Then comes an extended vignette about an anxious real estate agent, her mysterious client, and a house of violence. Finally, we have the breakdown of a woman whose fetus speaks to her in a rising tide of nonsense syllables, literary references, and obscenities, a veritable catalogue of life.
In Wright, obsessions and abnormalities go hand in hand. There is no home, no retreat in our search for "the root of who we are." The conflict between outer actions and inner insecurities on stage is meant to stir similar doubts in the audience.
A versatile cast—Michi Barall, Leslie Lyles, Darren Pettie, Reg Rogers, and Henry Stram—juggles what they're playing while signaling that they are just acting. Or are they? The surface minimalism of Michael Brown's sets and Ilona Somogyi's costumes are shadowed by the portentousness of Phil Monat's lighting, David Van Tieghem's music and the sound design of Van Tieghem and Jill Du Boff.