On Sundays Gothamist runs opinion pieces relevant to life in New York and reviews of recent books and performances. The judgments expressed below are entirely those of the author.
Of the array of narrative voices that seem to be American through-and-through, that seem to have a cadence that only this country could have fostered – whether or not that’s the case – the language of the hard-boiled noir thriller is surely a prime example. In Rip Me Open, part of the Evolve series curated by Travis Chamberlain at Galapagos Art Space, the creators have used that voice – and twisted it around, and parodied it – to great effect. With skilled performances by Michael Cyril Creighton and Desiree Burch, the play is, to use a tired adjective, “edgy,” at least in parts, but it is also, to use a description that never gets tired, a lot of fun.
Burch plays Lucinda, a professional secret shopper who sometimes takes detective work on the side, which is how she meets Sebastian, who comes to her with a job that turns her world upside down. Not much background detail is provided about either of them; one gathers that Lucinda is dissatisfied with a lonely life rotating among chain restaurants like Sizzlers and Applebee’s for meals and sleeping in her tiny fleabag apartment, and that Sebastian is a rich, flamboyant but vulnerable gay man, but that’s about it – the play only concerns what happens when they collide. Fortunately, Burch and Creighton both have a stage presence that makes you feel you know a lot about their characters’ pasts and preoccupations anyway, though I still would have liked to have seen Creighton on his own more, because of the different sense you get of someone when he performs a monologue or solitary scene. Of course, that wouldn’t really work in the context of this show, which Lucinda narrates effectively in the classic noir detective story style, so her point of view predominates, but still. In any case, the job Sebastian has for her is to follow his new lover and find out whether he does the same…thing…with other men. Not surprisingly, “the thing” is not what might first spring to your mind, and Lucinda’s efforts to figure out who the lover is and what’s going on between them are more of a dark game, and, in a way, a dual quest for understanding, rather than a detective story.
Press notes cite the influence of Haruki Murakami, among others, on the production, which Burch and Creighton developed in collaboration with Brian Mullin, who directs, and Kyle Jarrow, and this is delightfully clear in many places, particularly with the absurdist, despondent tone used to present Lucinda’s life. As Murakami does with his characters, Burch makes Lucinda, who might have come off as just an oddball loser, into a vibrant, sympathetic figure. Sebastian remains something of a cipher, though in Creighton’s hands frequently a gloriously comedic one, and with enough complexities to keep things interesting. From start to finish, Rip Me Open zigzags from moments of hilarity to moments of deep sobriety, rather like the disturbed relationship at its heart; the thrill in watching it is less in trying to put clues together than in observing the actors negotiate such tricky emotional terrain and often literary script while at the same time putting on an entertaining show, and seeing them succeed.
Galapagos Art Space // 70 North 6th St., Williamsburg // April 14, 21, and 28 at 8pm // Tickets via Smarttix