offoffoff theater
 RELATED PROJECTS

      







 ADVERTISEMENT













Site links
  • OFFOFFOFF Home
  • About OFFOFFOFF
  • Contact us

    Get our newsletter:
     
    Search the site:
     

    Theater section
  • Theater main page
  • Theater archive
  • Theater links


    Current theater


  • Fall Briefs
  • Nick

    Archive


    Complete archive, 1999-present

    2008-2009 reviews:
  • Anaïs Nin Goes To Hell
  • ANGER/NATION
  • beast: a parable
  • Blanche Survives Katrina in a FEMA Trailer Named Desire
  • Blasted
  • Buffalo Gal
  • China: The Whole Enchilada
  • The Corn Maiden
  • Crawl, Fade to White
  • Doruntine
  • Extraordinary Rendition
  • The First Breeze of Summer
  • Fringe Festival 2008
  • Fringe Festival favorites
  • The Glass Cage
  • Hair
  • Hidden Fees* (A Play About Money)
  • Jailbait
  • King of Shadows
  • The Longest Running Joke of the Twentieth Century
  • Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising
  • Macbeth
  • The Master Builder
  • Missa Solemnis, or The Play About Henry
  • Mourn the Living Hector
  • A Nasty Story
  • Nowadays
  • the october crisis (to laura)
  • Oresteia
  • Other Bodies
  • Prayer
  • Psalms of a Questionable Nature
  • Raised by Lesbians
  • Reasonable Doubt
  • Sleepwalk With Me
  • Small Craft Warnings
  • Something Weird . . . in the Red Room
  • Soul Samurai
  • The Sound of One Hanna Clapping
  • Southern Promises
  • The Third from the Left
  • Twelfth Night
  • Voices from Guantánamo
  • The Wendigo
  • Zombie

  •  REVIEW: ANAïS NIN GOES TO HELL

    Shelly Feldman as Anaïs Nin in Anaïs Nin Goes To Hell
    Photo by Erica Parise
    Shelly Feldman as Anaïs Nin

    The Secret of Nin

    David Stallings's existential comedy "Anaïs Nin Goes to Hell" is one of Fringe 2008's must-sees.

    By REESE THOMPSON
    Offoffoff.com

    There’s a moment late in David Stalling’s play, "Anaïs Nin Goes to Hell," wherein Heloise, the 12th Century nun played by Aly Wirth in a wonderful performance, removes her veil to reveal the cheapest-looking, most ill-fitting, Barbie doll-yellow wig I’ve ever seen. And yet it’s one of the most moving moments in a play full of such moments. One of the rewarding things about the Fringe Festival is being surprised by a show whose warmth and intelligence seem to radiate from beneath the corner-cutting costumes and the shoddy production value. Ms. Wirth was definitely not the only one in the cast saddled with a laughably bad wig.

      
    ANAïS NIN GOES TO HELL
    Written by: David Stallings.
    Directed by: Cristina Alicea.
    Produced by: Julie Griffith.
    Cast: Shelly Feldman, Kristina Kohl, Madalyn McKay, Colleen Piquette, Ally Wirth.
    Sound design by: Martha Goode.
    Set design by: Stephanie Tucci.
    Costumes by: David Withrow.
    Lighting design by: Dan Gallagher.

    Related links: Official site
     SCHEDULE
    Connelly Theater
    220 East 4th St. between Ave. A and B
    Fringe Festival 2008, Aug. 8-24, 2008

     RELATED ARTICLES
    Fringe Festival 2008
  • Preview
  • Our Favorites

  • Reviews:
  • Anaïs Nin Goes To Hell
  • beast: a parable
  • Blanche Survives Katrina in a FEMA Trailer Named Desire
  • China: The Whole Enchilada
  • The Corn Maiden
  • Extraordinary Rendition
  • Hidden Fees*
  • The Longest Running Joke of the Twentieth Century
  • Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising
  • Mourn the Living Hector
  • A Nasty Story
  • the october crisis (to laura)
  • Other Bodies
  • Prayer
  • Psalms of a Questionable Nature
  • Raised by Lesbians
  • Reasonable Doubt
  • The Third from the Left
  • Zombie
  • It’s a testament to the strength of the piece, as well as the overall commitment of the entire creative team, that you are willing to make that leap and suspend disbelief. A part of your mind tells you that Ms. Wirth looks slightly ridiculous with that hood of yellow hair, and yet another part of your mind compels you to be transported by the commitment of her performance and by the quality of the writing. It’s one of those great moments in the theater where what happens on stage and in your mind produces a physical reaction. Your cheeks get hot, or your breath catches, or the hairs on your arms prickle. Whatever it is, it’s a reminder of what theater can do, production values notwithstanding.

    On an island in the land of Hades, we meet a group of women who have been stranded together for centuries. Among them: Cleopatra (Kristina Kohl), Joan of Arc (Colleen Piquette), Queen Victoria (Madalyn McKay), and Andromeda (Marnie Schulenburg). The premise, no doubt, owes much to both Sartre’s "No Exit" and Churchill’s "Top Girls." "Anaïs Nin Goes to Hell," which is oddly described as a "dark comedy," plays a bit more like Gloria Steinem’s answer to "Gilligan’s Island." These ladies are stuck with each other and, considering the contrasts in their personalities, Hell must indeed be other people.

    Marnie Schulenburg (Andromeda), Colleen Piquette (Joan of Arc) and Madalyn McKay (Queen Victoria) in Anaïs Nin Goes To Hell  
    Photo by Erica Parise  
    Marnie Schulenburg (Andromeda), Colleen Piquette (Joan of Arc) and Madalyn McKay (Queen Victoria)
      
    Of course, one could accuse Mr. Stallings’s portrayal of these Great women of being somewhat simplistic and predictable. After all, it’s not quite the most penetratingly original choice to depict Cleopatra as a bored seductress with a dry wit, or Queen Victoria as a single-mindedly moralistic monarch. However, the comedic formula seems to require that we view them through a contemporary lens.

    From these cartoonish beginnings, Stallings and his superb cast and director go on to create fully-rounded, sympathetic, and often inspired characters. Over the course of the play, these women are allowed to grow, to surprise, and to interact with each other in ways that feel honest. Of course, the catalyst of all this growing, changing, and surprising is the arrival on the island of Anaïs Nin, the 20th Century feminist writer. Anaïs, her function here very similar to that of the British woman on Fox's “Nanny 911,” is the most modern, the most freely sexual, and most intellectual of the group. She swoops into their stagnant lives with her naughty books and her pencil skirt and her French accent, and like the radical she is, changes everything. A call for her banishment is only a matter of time.

      
      On an island in the land of Hades, we meet a group of women who have been stranded together for centuries. Among them: Cleopatra, Joan of Arc, Queen Victoria, and Andromeda.
      
    As a work of feminism, the only questionable aspect of Mr. Stallings’s premise is his choice to include many already strong women. That Cleopatra, Queen Victoria, and Joan of Arc are really so undefined without the men in their lives, or that they would need lessons from a layabout intellectual like Anaïs Nin about being strong and self-determining, is a hard case to make. Equally unconvincing is the idea that Great men, by their nature, are more likely to engage in battle, while Great women are more likely to engage in endless sighing and waiting — an conceit inconsistent with history. This is all a little problematic, of course, but it’s a problem that is inevitable in a play that deals with as many ideas as this one does. Few tenets of feminism are simple enough to be inarguable anyway.

    Shelly Feldman* (Anaïs) and Colleen Piquette (Joan of Arc) in Anaïs Nin Goes To Hell  
    Photo by Erica Parise  
    Shelly Feldman* (Anaïs) and Colleen Piquette (Joan of Arc)
      
    To my mind, the play works better as a parable of existentialism. Anaïs Nin, whether by design or accident, sets about to dismantle each woman’s illusions, with varying results. That the moral implications of such a project are also questioned in the play makes it easy to overlook superficial inconsistencies in the text (can you die twice or not?), and trust that we are in the hands of a playwright who is constantly thinking and questioning. The writing is not only at its strongest and most engaging at those points where a discussion of abstract ideas would normally bog down a play, but the playwright's talent is most apparent in how he is able to both dramatize these ideas and hold forth on them in a way that is dynamic and accessible. He also knows better than to over-do it.

    I look forward to future productions of this play.

    AUGUST 19, 2008
    OFFOFFOFF.COM • THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK



    Post a comment on "Anaïs Nin Goes To Hell"