Monday, September 07, 2015

Mercury Fur

I find it hard to believe that Philip Ridley's Mercury Fur -- written in 2005, but just now receiving its New York premiere, under the auspices of The New Group -- caused such ire upon its original London bow that the critic Charles Spencer to basically call Ridley a pervert and the author's regular publisher, Faber and Faber, refused to issue the text in print. After all, the play premiered a decade after Sarah Kane's Blasted, a truly unsettling piece that actually simulated rape, mutilation and cannibalism in full view. Horrible things are the purview of this dystopian drama, but the vehicle is almost entirely talk. The talk is laced with fucks and cunts, but it's hardly shocking on the language or the content level. The play portrays a post-apocalyptic world in which any fantasy can be bought for the right price; brothers Elliot (Zane Pais) and Darren (Jack DiFalco) facilitate these encounters and act as purveyors of the drug-du-jour, taken in the form of butterflies.

photo: Michelle V. Agins
I won't reveal the particular fantasy being bought in Mercury Fur, though other critics have. But I will say that by the time it becomes clear -- after nearly two intermissionless hours -- it's hard not to feel that the playwright hasn't earned the shock he's trying to sell. Ridley is obsessed with the minutiae of life in a dystopia -- surviving in a nightmarish landscape becomes just as boring as trying to climb the corporate ladder. But does his writing and the action that surrounds it (Pais and DiFalco spend much of the play's first half-hour cleaning an apartment, doing little else) have to actually be so boring in order to portray banality?

Although the acting is largely good -- Tony Revolori (late of The Grand Budapest Hotel) and Paul Iacono (apparently playing a cisgender woman, for reasons never fully understandable) are particular standouts -- the play never catches fire. And it never feels disquieting. The best works of art in this genre should make you question the darker aspects of your own society. That is something Mercury Fur simply doesn't achieve.

[discounted ticket, almost impossible to accurately describe my seat given the theater's current configuration]

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