Thursday, February 19, 2015


Play #28 - Inky by Rinne Groff

This is sort of a very twisted little Mary Poppins story... if Mary Poppins were an ambiguously Slavic wanna-be boxer. In this case, Barbara and Greg have a 9-year-old daughter (Allison) and a baby son, so they have decided to hire a nanny - Inky. They had intended to be in a larger home by the time she arrived, but when Inky shows up at their door at the beginning of the play, they are still in their 30th floor apartment. Inky takes to the baby quickly, if not to the niceties of American living or English language. Greg is not bringing in money at the rate Barbara would like, the baby and Allison are not responding to Barbara the way she would like. Greg has to use money to get Barbara aroused enough to sleep with him... a trick he later uses with Inky. It's definitely not an ideal family situation, but Inky throws herself into it. As the play progresses, she brings home first a few coins here and there, followed by more and more money. It turns out that she and Allison have worked out quite the racket - first with Girl Scout cookies, then with mugging Allison's classmates. It seems that, after Allison was mugged while selling cookies, Inky taught her to fight. And she saves up the money in the hopes that she can provide for Barbara, Allison, and the baby in ways that Greg is apparently unable to do - as he has been embezzling and investing... and not terribly well. Scenes are framed by the sound of a boxing bell... which sort of begs the question of who is winning at any given moment. And we don't actually see Allison until the very end of the play... when she has finally conquered her fear of swimming and she - like Inky before her - triumphantly recites Muhammad Ali's intimidating patter as Inky fades into the background. Perhaps this magical nanny has finally finished her job here? Hmm...

Honestly, I'm not sure what I think of this play. I can't say that I enjoyed it - it was a little difficult to get through. Perhaps no one seemed quite redeeming enough. I tend to want to have someone to root for, and the best I could do here was a 20-year-old woman who beat up kids for money. Barbara seems to want to figure out how to be the right kind of mother, but she doubts herself constantly. She worries that her children don't like her. It's not until after she gets Inky to beat her up that she finally is able to really hear her baby breathing as he sleeps - to feel in tune with him. It is also this fight that inspires her to stand up to her husband, and to revel in her daughter's swimming triumph. I suppose, though the title is Inky's, the play is probably Barbara's. 

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