By Jacob Marx Rice; Directed by Anna Strasser
Part of the 2018 New York International Fringe Festival
Off Off Broadway, Play
Runs through 10.26.18
FringeHUB, 685 Washington Street
by Heather Violanti on 10.18.18
Clockwise from left: McLean Peterson, Benjamin Russell, Wilson Douglas, and Anya Krawcheck, in Cracks. Photo by Lizi Myers.
BOTTOM LINE: Emotionally powerful, if occasionally heavy-handed, play about moving on after loss.
Cracks, the latest installment in Jacob Marx Rice's acclaimed trilogy of plays about suicide, is well-written but undercut by a twee surrealism and repetitive dramaturgy. It tells the story of an aspiring scientist, Nicole (Anya Krawcheck), who cannot move past the painful memories of her late girlfriend Allie (McLean Peterson), who committed suicide. When a potential new relationship with Kat (Wilson Douglas), a funny app-designer, beckons, Nicole considers moving on. Her memories, however, threaten to hold her back—despite encouragement from the ever-present Humpty Dumpty (Benjamin Russell), a white-suited, British-accented version of the nursery rhyme figure who haunts Nicole’s imagination.
Humpty Dumpty reflects Nicole’s scientific interest in eggs. The focus of her PhD is “reversing the nature process in ovum proteins”—she aims to turn back time and bring cooked eggs back to life. She can’t bring Allie back, but maybe she can help humanity through some time-reversing science. Humpty Dumpty watches over Allie as she does her experiments, relives her painful relationship with the late Allie, and tries to strike up a relationship with Kat. Benjamin Russell makes an engaging presence as the wry, arrogant egg-man, but the character’s constant aphorisms keep repeating the same emotional beat that Nicole needs to rebuild her life. While repetition is to be expected in a play about a woman constantly reliving the same memories, the play tends to repeat emotional beats in a way that adds no new information, from Humpty Dumpty’s deliberately twee bon mots to Kat’s attempts to disarm Nicole with jokey self-deprecation. The play tends to underline important themes and character traits in a way that can be frustratingly obvious. Still, the play resonated with the audience on the afternoon I saw it, many of whom wept.
Anna Strasser directs a fluid production that balances the play’s seriousness and humor, and the ensemble is first-rate. Anya Krawcheck captures the intelligent restlessness of Nicole, and McLean Peterson finds the paradoxical whimsy that occasionally breaks through Allie’s despair. Wilson Douglas brings complexity to Kat’s jokey self-doubt, while Benjamin Russell revels in Humpty Dumpty’s witticisms. Susanne Houstle’s scenic and costume design work is strikingly effective. The all-white set echoes Nicole’s obsession with eggs, while each character's costume ably reflects their different personalities, from Nicole’s geeky thick glasses to Humpty Dumpty’s self-important white suit and turtleneck. Overall, this is a fine production of a well-written, if sometimes heavy-handed, play.
(Cracks plays at FringeHUB, 685 Washington Street at Charles Street, through October 26, 2018. Meet at the DARK BLUE FringeNYC flag. The running time is 1 hour 15 minutes. Performances are Fri 10/19 at 7, Sat 10/20 at 3, Sun 10/21 at 7:15, Wed 10/24 at 5, and Fri 10/26 at 9. There is no late seating at FringeNYC. Tickets are $22 (plus $3.69 ticketing fee), $16 (plus $3.51) for seniors, and are ONLY available online at fringenyc.org. For more information visit crackstheplay.com.)
Cracks is by Jacob Marx Rice. Directed by Anna Strasser. Scenic and Costume Design by Susanne Houstle. Lighting Design by Rachel Fae Szymanski. Sound Design by Randall Benichak. Stage Manager is Sophia Leewah.
The cast is Wilson Douglas, Anya Krawcheck, McLean Peterson, and Benjamin Russell.