Friday, November 14, 2008

U.S. Drag - Pasadena Star News Review

posted by Nick Cernoch at 2:53 PM
'U.S. Drag' tears away superficial drive for success

By Frances Baum Nicholson, Correspondent
Article Launched: 11/08/2008 02:51:48 PM PST


Upstairs at the Pasadena Playhouse, in the Carrie Hamilton Theater, a theater company lives to hand people questions with either no answers or multiple answers.

It's kind of theater in the raw. Don't expect the bright, shiny toys of the Playhouse mainstage. The realm of Furious Theatre Company has elements that make theater a socially radical art form. The company's new season's focus on dark and twisting comedies promises the same delightful disquiet one has come to expect from its enterprise.

Their newest piece, Gina Gionfriddo's somewhat misleadingly titled "U.S. Drag," celebrates both the cult of self, and the nature of cultural hysteria, in the tale of two Vassar grads out to succeed without ever having to struggle. Laid against the backdrop of a New York obsessed by a serial attacker commonly referred to as "Ed," one follows these women as they insinuate themselves into any variety of potentially upwardly mobile situations, staying with them just long enough to gain ground, but not long enough to have any of their peculiar journeymates stick.

Katie Davies and Megan Goodchild find a wonderful detachment as these women to whom nothing matters but themselves. Their focused drive, their body language and interpersonal code describe both a cultural unity and an insularity from all the rest of their teeming and (to them) beneath them little world. Eric Pargac's earnest suitor and Shawn Lee's continuously infantile memoirist provide male counterpoint.
Johanna McKay becomes the portrait of an Ed victim - though whether internal or external becomes open to discussion. Nick Cernoch takes self-centeredness and a need to be served as a mantra, while Saffron Henke becomes a variety of characters who people the world Ed threatens, and our heroines wish to exploit for their own benefit.

Lying beneath the superficial drive for success is a fascinating examination of the nature of truth, from the absolute to the ridiculously interpretable. Even the attacks are open to question. Is there an Ed? This becomes a glorious tangle it will take long conversations over a few glasses of wine to unwind, but is worth the conversation. The sheer fact that everything is not laid out at the end in neat rows is one of the play's most attractive elements.

So, is it a good thing to refuse to start your career at the Xerox machine and work your way up? "U.S. Drag" is almost the antithesis to "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying." At least, if you are trying to succeed in a world populated by scary guys in the park, and a wealth of tell-all books as guides.


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