So most of us have read (or seen) the Stepford Wives, Ira Levin's dark satire that dispels any romantic vision of suburbia, revealing it instead as a carefully concocted patriarchy whose robotic-like women are literally all wire and spark. A more hilarious and disconcerting scenario? Suburbia unplugged.
If you think all city-skirting communities are innocuous spheres filled only with the inane, the dull and the quietly desperate, prepare to be rocked by Michael Yates Crowley's new play Evanston: A Rare Comedy, directed by Michael Rau, which opened last night as part of the undergroundzero festival at P.S. 122 in the East Village.
In A Rare Comedy, inspired by the opening words of Psalm 137, the Illinois college town of Evanston seems on the verge of total collapse: its housewives can only comprehend life (and death) through the language of their receipts, its librarian is a death-obsessed transgender, its professor intellectualizes his reality to unsettling extremes, its daughter is a pill-popping runaway who bears the burden of her emotionally bankrupt parents and its Whole Foods is the site of some sexy moral corruption. Ironically, Crowley's warped world manages to evoke some of the very real feelings of disconnection, dislocation and longing afflicting the post-modern human psyche.
Evanston opens with a dramatic and fantastically narrow reading of Homer's The Odyssey by consumer-queen Sharon Richardson (Anna Margaret Hollyman), during her book club meeting with cronies Marta (Bodine Alexander) and Betsy (Michael Yates Cronin). Somehow, Hollyman, Alexander and Cronin manage to reveal (quite stunningly) a tangled emotional depth and loneliness behind their characters' empty platitudes about the weather, the mall and Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat Pray Love. Devon Jordan rocks the boat as the fiery Whole Foods checkout clerk Caryn--"with a C!"--capturing the eye of Marta's lost professor-husband Lief (Sam West) as his daughter Isobel (Leah Karpel), the self proclaimed "garbage flower," roams the mystical city alleyways of this floundering town.
The actors of troupe Wolf 359 manage to avoid the potential pitfalls of simplifying their stereotypical characters and create instead a hilarious, (at times unnervingly on-point) portrait of yearning Evanston citizens whose oblivion proves to be their most dangerous threat. This play definitely deserves an audience. For tickets ($15) call 212-352-3101 or go to www.here.org.