Sunday, February 22, 2015

U.S. Drag

Play #31 - U.S. Drag by Gina Gionfriddo

Ms. Gionfriddo is getting a lot of play in my play a day project so far. I think this is the third one I've read so far. Weird. Anyway, U.S. Drag is much more interesting than the other pieces I've read by her. I admit to having a predisposition to plays with an off-kilter sense of reality, and that is definitely happening in U.S. Drag. It starts out as the tale of two 20-somethings in Manhattan, trying to find their slice of an extraordinary life. Angela and Allison go out partying, they live on a futon mattress in someone else's apartment (Ned - he's allowing them to live there in hopes that they will throw parties so he can meet people - so far, they haven't held up their end of the bargain), they refuse to take jobs that are below their station (magna and summa cum laude, for goodness sake!) In the first scene, they have gone home with a man named James in the hopes of some free drinks, but what they get instead is a lecture on crime. He is an advocate attempting to get a woman off of death row who he feels was put there under very dubious circumstances. He also warns them about "Ed," a mysterious serial assailant who has been trolling the streets of New York asking people for help, and then attacking them when they agree. The girls are far more interested in the $100,000 reward than in the assailant himself. So, in search of information, they show up at a meeting of a group called SAFE: Stay Away From Ed. The leader Evan has assembled survivors of Ed's attacks as well as general advocates with the mission of just staying away from Ed - ignore people who ask for help, avoid anyone you don't know - stay away. This isn't quite what the girls were looking for, but they keep going - it's something to do. Angela gets a job at a bookstore and is sent to look after a writer - Christopher - who has some fairly prominent emotional issues which he plays out in his "creative non-fiction" about his "abusive" parents. Ed's attacks continue, the group becomes more and more tangled up together, and eventually even Angela is attacked, which sets Christopher, Angela, and Allison off onto their paths toward fame. Angela writes a book about her attack and Allison is her publicist - selling the spectacle of the whole experience. Christopher, on the other hand, writes a book claiming that "Ed" was never real, that he was merely a name put onto a string of self-inflicted attention-seeking actions perpetrated by lonely people. Angela is about to get very famous, Christopher is about to get very shunned... and the play ends as he meets someone new at a book signing... and "lights [go] out on impending romance or something else..."

Time and space are very fluid in this play. There are no scene breaks, no instructions for scene changes, just instructions that we are now somewhere else. The events blend into each other - as do the neuroses of the lonely souls that flock together around a shared or possible trauma. Everyone is looking for the "it" that makes their life extraordinary - love or fame or money or spectacularizing horrific events for personal gain... the statement in this play is more interesting and less bluntly expressed in this play than in the other pieces I've read by Gionfriddo, and the theatricality of the style of this piece really appeals to me. Plus, the characters are all in their 20s and 30s, which makes it a much more accessible piece for undergraduate actors - who are all on the verge of looking for their little bit of extraordinary too. 

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