Behind the Eight Ball
A new naked ghost play desperately needs workshopping
There's an old writer's tale that a young scribe once approached Anton Chekhov and asked him to have a look at his script. Chekhov looked at it, ripped the first two-thirds of the manuscript away, then returned it. "There," he said. "That's your play." Extant Arts Company has produced a play that wants ripping. Badly.
Andy James Hoover's Corner Pocket: A Ghost Story of Love and Revenge follows the ghost of a recently murdered woman accused by her living in-laws of having killed her husband (she did chop off his head, but that doesn't mean she killed him) as she attempts to avenge her own murder and fall in love with her husband all over again in the afterlife. Of course there's a spirit possession. And lots of mute undressing onstage. And an unsubstantiated lesbian make-out session reminiscent of Girls Gone Wild. And an abundance of artificial and self-conscious acting. All sorts of things happen when characters have no baseline motivation for being on stage.
Amidst Bridget Durkin's confused and histrionic direction and an overwhelming swell of equally alienating acting, kudos go to Kari Swenson Riely for bringing an earthy naturalism to her role as Karen O'Hara, the eldest in-law. And particular apologies to Eric Sutton, who clearly has the makings to be the next Seth Rogen, if only he had decent material to perform.
Hoover's Corner Pocket reeks of immaturity and underdeveloped themes and characters. Hoover, however, is not entirely to be faulted for this. Most early drafts of a script are overwritten and underinspiring; creating a new play is no easy task, and takes infinitely more time than any sane human would care to imagine. But if Extant Arts Company wants to produce new work, they need to take the time and the energy to develop work like Hoover's in a safe and quiet workshop reading environment, away from the real world where critics will naturally be appalled and horrified by the low standards that make a decent production of the material an impossibility.
In his introduction to the play, Extant's artistic director writes "[we have] proudly produced the work of classic playwrights from Sophocles to Shakespeare, Anton Chekhov to Ellen McLaughlin?and it is with great pleasure that I welcome Andy James Hoover to their illustrious company." Chekhov, after rolling in his grave over such a remark, would have read Hoover's script, ripped the first two-thirds of it away and saved the last third for a sitcom.
Through Oct. 24, Gene Frankel Theater, 24 Bond St. (betw. Bowery and Lafayette St.), www.extantarts.org; $18.
PHOTO CREDIT: Mary Schneider and Kari Swenson Riely in 'Corner Pocket.' Photo by Ellen B. Wright.
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