At the tail end of the fourth heat wave of this increasingly unbearable 2012 New York City summer, I was looking forward to a bit of relief at the 19th annual Ice Factory Festival down in the West Village. This is largely due to the talented Bekah Brunstetter’s new play, and the collaboration between Studio 42 (known for producing “unproducible” plays), Ice Factory and their new space, in the New Ohio Theatre. With a juicy, provocative title like ‘Miss Lily Gets Boned’ how could one go wrong?
Well, the message of the play is, we’re all animals, and we are all doomed.
Which is a little bit passé, and if you have observed the climbing crime rate here in conjunction with the heat (hit and runs, shootings, stabbings, overloaded boats capsizing, with children the victims) you already knew we were doomed.
But back to the play.
Even the best of us, it seems, are animals. Take Miss Lily (the fine Jessica Dickey). She is 31, a Sunday school teacher and a devout virgin who prays for God to drop a man on her, preferably one with an accent. He does, in the shape of Richard (Chris Thorn), a South African widower whose wife has been killed by an elephant and has a troubled son, Jordan (David Rosenblatt), in Miss Lily’s class. Also in the mix is Miss Lily’s somewhat opposing, younger slutty sister, Lara (Liz Wisan), dealing with unbridled lust and a newly diagnosed case of HPV.
Paralleled with this is a location in Africa, which holds Harold the elephant, and Vandalla, the animal doctor who tries to change his nature and make him apologize for the killing.
But you can’t change an animal’s nature.
The most telling exchange comes late in the play, when, in an Ionesco touch of the absurd (and there are several), Harold has a conversation with Jordan. Harold does apologize for the killing of his mother, then says, “Sometimes I just do what I want to do, especially if I’m angry or hungry.”
In the context of the play, that explains Richard’s caddish behavior, Jordan’s striking out at a classmate, Lara’s man-eating tendencies, and Miss Lily’s act of homicide.
Because we are all animals, in case you didn’t know.
The acting is first-rate by the entire cast, and the puppeteering by Brian Belcinski, Adam Blodgett and Aaron McDaniel is absolutely wondrous.
I would not say this play is “unproducible.” I would say overall it is beautifully written, the relationships credible, and the humor is terrific. But I did feel hit over the head with the overall message, and thought there were several threads that deserved mining, such as what faith means or does not mean in the face of tragedy; whether mourning gives you carte blanche to all sorts of bad behavior and if so, for how long; and what happens when your faith fails you. In the latter case of Miss Lily, I don’t know what would have happened to her, but it would have been mighty interesting to find out.