Stage and Cinema film and theatre reviews
 

Creature – Off Broadway Theater Review 

 

MUTUAL DISBELIEF

 

picture - CreatureTheater Review

by Cindy Pierre

published November 8, 2009

 

Creature

now playing at the Ohio Theatre

through November 21

 

It's not easy to tell which definition Heidi Schreck was inspired by when watching her bizarre dramedy Creature. The protagonist, Margery (Sofia Jean Gomez), a recent mother who can't bond with her baby, goes from craving red meat and animalistic sex with her husband John (Darren Goldstein) to reinventing herself as a pious daughter of God.  To get from one extreme to the next, Margery is visited by a Jesus in a purple robe who causes her to abstain from sex, food, and frivolity as she marches down the path to sainthood. 

 

With three meanings of creature already under tow and none of them flattering, you might not be able to pin down what Schreck was aiming to accomplish with this play, but it's clear that she has an uncomfortable relationship with faith and religion, namely Catholicism.  The manner in which this production  unveils that discomfort, however, is delayed and often distemperate. 

 

picture - CreatureDespite Rachel Hauck's appropriately earthy set, neither you nor the characters in Creature get their feet planted into the plot until 20 minutes have gone by.  Luckily, there are plenty of visuals to pass the time.  A beautiful, wooden cradle suspends from above but is rocked from below, planks hang overhead to give us a hint of the home's structure and a staircase provides hasty retreats.

 

The simplicity and practicality of the scenery is only matched by Theresa Squire's costumes.  The year 1400 in Lynn, England, is represented by monk's robes that are embellished and transformed to suit both genders, and head wraps for the ladies that look slightly Dutch.  With the exception of John, the only character who remains impervious to Margery's religious ambitions, everyone is dressed archaically. 

 

Although ambivalence about religion and faith is as old as time itself, Creature's often irreverent and outrageous take on both is unpredictable, but ultimately off-putting.  Here, Margery, a woman lauded for her strength and her beauty, is also derided for her intelligence, as in the line “you women and your watery brains.”  And the Nurse (Tricia Rodley), a frightened ball of energy that's just as interested in her boss' husband as she is in pretending to uphold propriety, is not exactly championing the women's movement either, time period notwithstanding. 

 

picture - CreatureWill Rogers goes from being a spirited young man (Jacob, young man in love with Margery), to being a devil named Asmodeus, perhaps as a commentary on the dueling nature of man.  However, under Leigh Silverman's direction, Rogers delivers his lines in such an affected and annoying way that any chance that he has at getting the audience to empathize with him as a normal person is erased.  Even MaryLouise Burke's funny performance as Juliana, an anchoress, and Hazelnut, presumably a wordplay on the mustard seed of faith, is hampered by inane monologues and insertions into the plot that are nonsensical.

 

The only character that does make sense is Father Thomas, played by Jeremy Shamos.  As the priest “who's not a real priest because he's a priest to the poor,” Shamos' performance is naturally funny without being overdone, and a beacon towards what one would imagine a real priest to be.

 

Creature may experiment with the substance of faith, but the eccentric characters, and consequently, freakish lines, make it difficult to understand Schrek's point of view.  It's not enough to say that “faith is tricky” and proceed to show us tricks.  We also need to see and care about what can be done about it, even if the statement or action is to just take it all in stride.

 

cindypierre @ stageandcinema.com

 

 
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