Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Alice Complex

Photo/Nelson Hancock

Peter Barr Nickowitz's The Alice Complex suffers from only one thing: it's a little too complex for the modest little story he's crammed into an hour. It hardly matters, as Bill Oliver's expert direction and the perfect performances of Lisa Banes and Xanthe Elbrick make this one of the slickest productions of the entire Fringe Festival '08. Here's an example of the abundant cleverness: Elbrick plays Quinn, an actress who is about to star in her theater professor Margo's new play, which is about a young girl named Rebecca (Elbrick) who, in order to work out her love/hate relationship with her idealized feminist teacher, Sally (Banes), takes her hostage. Along the way, Elbrick plays a younger version of Sally, and Banes plays an older versino of Rebecca, touching on a lot of nuances and shades, but forgoing the need to stress anything deeper in these relationships for surfacey lines ("I hate beginnings," says Quinn; "That's because you haven't seen enough endings," replies Margo) and melodramatic mania (as when Rebecca pretends to go off the deep end, hoping to wake up the Sally she is in love with). It's a brilliant showcase, though, and if the overall story winds up a little muddied, the individual choices and chemistry between these two women are terrific. On a scale from 1 to 5, with 1 being "A, my name is Awful" 5 being "I'd jump down this rabbit hole again," The Alice Complex gets a 4.

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