By Marcina Zaccaria
Now in its ninth Year, All for One has featured some of the best solo performance in NYC. When we look at solo work, we look for the dynamic potential in the individual, the build in action, and all those fissures, the little breaks through which life can burst. The truth is, Monsoon Season is full of such glimmers.
With astonishing energy, Danny, played by Richard Thieriot, begins the show. With a lit cactus in the background and an astonishing sunset, brilliantly lit behind him, we see the actor move through the clutter of cardboard boxes. Danny is suffering the effects of break-up and divorce. With his remote business in Arizona, he faces the agonizing alienation of living near a Strip Club and being kept up all night. For comfort, he has his computer and cell phone, a hermit crab, and memories of family. Animals in Arizona aren’t represented like animals anywhere, and the hermit crab gives way to a mention of a large bird, like a Phoenix. For an NYC audience, it’s fascinating to perceive the wild life that might be looming, somewhere in the distance.
Even with this odd, off-world charm, there’s something commercial about the performance style. Perhaps, because Danny keeps moving within three steps, the audience is drawn into close-up, noting the changes in his expressions, ranging from comedic to ironic. His nose, bleeding continuously, leaves us wishing that he could find better, for himself, for his family, for everyone that surrounds him. As we hear his story, woven in a type of patchwork provided by Playwright Lizzie Vieh, we note that what could be an average somber year becomes an outpouring of bloodshed. Danny, a Service Associate, eventually reaches beyond his cramped room, with scissors in both hands, ready to plunge through the next episode.
Boxes are moved, clearing the stage for Julia (Therese Plaehn), Danny’s other half, who is living in a type of messy world with a peculiar dollhouse. Thoughts of her daughter are persistent. She struggles with living alone, while being estranged by what might be lurking in her backyard. Meanwhile, she’s juggling responsibilities with career ambitions; all in all, she’s some kind of tough cookie. Within her solo performance are both frivolity and despair. When not dealing with the difficulty of electrics within the beauty industry, she promotes make-up design on YouTube.
Director Kristin McCarthy Parker knows how to utilize every aspect of production, including puppetry. Parker asks for only the best Lighting Design from Sarah Johnston, and together with the Scenic Design by You-Shin Chen, creates a type of theatrical magic that might only grow to be larger and more captivating in future productions. In Monsoon Season, a Halloween like landscape finally emerges, as an enormous, ostrich-like bird graces the stage, just before we see what looks like a corpse, wrapped in a garbage bag. It is the most delightful moment of surprise, executed with directorial precision.
If you can get past the reliance on such choppy storytelling, you might find that Monsoon Season is a great watch, just in time for the Autumn holidays.
Monsoon Season was performed at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, located at 224 Waverly Place. It will be running through November 17.