Presented by Clubbed Thumb at the Ohio Theater, 66 Wooster St., NYC, May 3-25.
Lisa D'Amour's stylish, verbose, intermittently entertaining maze of a play is a twisted version of Edgar Allan Poe's short story, "The Masque of The Red Death."
In the Poe story, a prince is seeking to seal himself and his colleagues from a plague that eventually leads to their demise. Here, D'Amour and Clubbed Thumb present Jane Withers, a woman who is working on behalf of "the Panel" to hunt down a powerful magnate, his cosmopolitan wife, and their jaded daughter. The play doesn't seem to match up with the Poe story until it becomes evident that Jane, too, is a target. As it turns out, the Panel is also hunting down Jane for past wrongs occasioned while she was a member (of the Panel).
What is this Panel, you ask? Well, it's not totally clear, at least as far as I could tell, but D'Amour is apparently trying to make a hardly fresh point about omnipresent governmental interference. Yet whether all this makes intellectual or even literal sense does not appear to be the crux of the piece. This play's intent is to create a mood of dizzy fear and apprehension, and this spell is certainly cast, as spiced considerably by delightful witticisms and asides. In this theatrical stew, there is clever dancing, pulsing music, tantalizing sound (Matthew Burton), brilliant lighting (John-Paul Szczepanski), and some deliciously delivered non sequiturs.
Director Anne Kauffman's cast had a good time with the material. Maria Striar was focused and ably cast as Jane, but standing out particularly was the mother-daughter tandem of Mary Shultz (as Connie Albright) and Meghan Love (as Lucinda Albright). John McAdams (as Prospero) had some success with the tricky tone of the piece as well, as did Robert Alexander Owens (as a detective).