By: JK Clarke


One would think a play called “Snakes I Have Known” would be about people who were devious, unkind or deadly, the title being a metaphorical or allegorical reference. But Molly Montgomery’s one-woman show (which she wrote and performs) in this year’s Fringe Festival is, in fact, about actual serpents that she has, well . . . encountered, not really known. Which wouldn’t be a problem if she were, say, a herpetologist, or had a particularly compelling story about the snakes, real snakes, in her life.

     To hear her tell it, Ms. Montgomery has led a fairly vibrant and contented life. Born of an extremely well-to do-family (who have their own airplane to help navigate the 14,000 acres of rural Texas land they own), she’s the baby girl in a family that dotes on her and she’s smart enough to have finished high school two years early and adventurous enough to convince her parents to let her go live in New York City on her own (not quite the challenge it could be if one was entirely financially self-sufficient) at the age of 16 (!), where she had what it takes to work as a model. One can surmise from her story and her good looks that Ms. Montgomery is accustomed to getting what she wants and seldom hears the word “no.”

     What this gives us, then, is a story of a life without any significant hardships. Sure, there’s the Italian-American boyfriend who left her because he didn’t appreciate the particularly crass joke her family played on him leaving a dead snake in his bed; but he did nothing “snake-ish” or cruel. And her hackneyed, stereotyping impersonation of him makes it sound like she was dating Vinnie Barbarino (played by John Travolta in the 1970s schmaltz com “Welcome Back Kotter” — look it up), and that perhaps she was the cruel one. But there is no arc of character development and Molly doesn’t change whatsoever during the course of the piece. Change only occurs because she travels from one place to another. And she does that because mommy and daddy pony up a plane ticket. In a twist on the old saying, she has a face that everyone adores, but a story that only a mother could love.

     The problem with the massive influx of millennials from around the country — all seemingly inspired by the hit HBO show Sex and the City — is that the “big, bad, dangerous New York City they’re moving to no longer exists. It’s not an “edgy” city, it’s just very large, crowded and busy. There’s nothing adventurous or daring about a moving to a city where twenty-something women can teeter intoxicated down a Lower East Side street on $1500 heels clutching a $5000 handbag unmolested in the middle of the night (an all too-common sight for the last several years). If the old New York  were the New York Ms. Montgomery moved to in her story, then we’d have the beginnings of an adventure.

Unfortunately, Snakes I Have Known comes off feeling like a vanity project. Ms. Montgomery is an enthusiastic and attractive actor, but she doesn’t appear to have really had enough experience that can be shared with an audience and it offers us nothing revelatory or insightful. But maybe it’s best that she hasn’t encountered any snakes of the metaphorical variety. Wouldn’t we all hope for such a charmed life?

Snakes I Have Known. As part of Fringe Festival, through August 23rd  at Jimmy’s #43, 43 East 7th Street (between 2nd and 3rd Aves).