%22Die%22 cast picture

Photo: Dark Odyssey Films


By Beatrice Williams-Rude



The house lights go down and a man welcomes the audience to the opening of this Spring’s Midtown International Play Festival at the Workshop Jewel Box Theater.


The initial offering is Die, which is billed as a dark comedy—“A reimagined fairy tale.”


The playwright, Leonard D. Goodisman, aims to tackle big issues: celebrity worship, the role of the media, and the public’s focus on technology at the expense of interaction with real, live people, and our national preoccupation with beauty.


The plot concerns a woman, Die,  played by La Rivers,  who claims to have been the victim of an assault by a wild-eyed man who killed her children and shot her as well. A reporter, played by Elisa Marti, believes her and covers the story accordingly making the woman famous in the process. The detective, played by Jayson Wesley, does not, and probes more deeply.


No evidence can be found on the existence of the claimed “wild-eyed” man, but tests show the woman fired the shots including the one into her own arm. What difference does it make why someone is on the front page as long as she’s there (and her name’s spelled correctly)?


The beauty and fairy-tale aspect are reflected in the mirror—Desi Waters is the voice—and poisoned red apple Snow White’s wicked stepmother would have her eat.


Philip Feldman, who plays multiple roles, and Mikael Short who wields the hashtags, round out the cast.


(For the uninitiated and those not Millennials,  Hashtags are electronic labels used in social media– a word or phrase preceded by a hash or pound sign (#) and used to identify messages on a specific topic. In this play they’re used as thumbnail synopses.)


All the performers are attractive and  handle their roles competently.


In this, her second directorial gig,  delightful actress JC Sullivan, whose own sunniness warms everything she touches, does a creditable job. She keeps the action moving. She paces the piece expertly.


As to the play and the goals of the playwright—the effectiveness is in the execution. Our fascination with technology? Gian Carlo Menotti did it with wit and charm in 1947 with The Telephone. A man wants to propose to a woman but can’t pry her loose from her phone. He finally succeeds when he calls her from a phone booth and she happily agrees to become his wife.


Crime pays?  The icy irony of Chicago says it all.


Die goes one step beyond in having the protagonist murder her children to become famous. For this to be effective there needs to be either soaring language (Maxwell Anderson’s Wingless Victory ) and meticulous character development (almost any  Chekhov) or the biting wit of  a Berthold Brecht. While Die aims to be satire, it’s a two dimensional cartoon without an examination of character and of the current scene in which it’s set. It also needs clarity—particularly the fairy tale aspect.


The hashtags provide the high points as well as an indication of the substance.


Die will have performances at the Jewel Box Theater, 312 West 36th Street in Manhattan, 4th Floor, at 6:00 pm on  Thursday, March 10 and on Friday, at 7:15 pm on Friday, March 11.