by Susan Hasho
Dark Vanilla Jungle, by Philip Ridley, is an extraordinary monologue/play that dramatizes the complete breakdown of a human psyche from the inside. He is able to so eloquently get inside a woman’s experience that we are drawn in, in spite of the rugged destination of the character.
The superb actress Robyn Kerr as Andrea narrates the events of her life, in an almost circular way, constantly referring to the audience, forgetting her place in the story, asking for response. And this demand for response very humorously and subtly connects the audience with an intimacy that becomes almost unbearable.
The events of her life move from abandonment by her parents, to sexual abuse and on to more unusual connections with people. Step by step, she is drawn forward by the passionate desire for love and connection. She talks about her relationships with humor and describes her love for her lovers with rapture and unfounded optimism until piece by piece we understand the depth of her delusion. Andrea is a damaged and forgotten woman who makes up stories to survive, to create crazy sense out of waste and loss. Without guidance and without emotional structure, her stabs in the dark become more desperate and bizarre. By the end of the play she has moved somehow past civilization into some sort of medieval mind.
Robyn Kerr creates a huge event with simplicity and humor. She is easily capable of seducing an entire audience into following her treacherously difficult survival and ultimate outcome and generously fulfills the playwright’s vision. This is a vibrant and unusual theatrical experience. Clearly the director, Paul Takacs, has been an excellent support for Robyn Kerr’s performance and a strong interpreter of Philip Ridley’s truthful theatricality.
Dark Vanilla Jungle. Through February 7 at HERE (145 6th Avenue, NYC). www.Here.org; Box office: 212-352-3101.
*Photos: Hunter Canning