The prolific playwright Adam Rapp is at it again, stirring up a heady brew of gritty realism stuffed with the twisted values of the Sligo household. Dysfunctional families and misfits have always been a favorite of his, and with his dark new comedy American Sligo, making its World Premier at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater in the West Village, Rapp does not disappoint. Nicely directed by the playwright himself to maximize the play’s jarring effects and served with committed gusto by an excellent cast, the satire is a scathing attack on the moral decay of the American family that is by turns both shocking and hilarious.
At the center of the surreal one act, set in a garishly modest Midwest home (designed by John McDermott), is Art “Crazy Train” Sligo (Guy Boyd), an over the hill professional wrestling legend, who on this day will fight his final match. The 63 year old Crazy Train with an enormous bulging gut is dressed in red spandex and is about to sit down to a family dinner before he heads off for his last hurrah. The dinner takes on added dimension, because of a young impressionable guest, Bobby (Matthew Stadelmann), a sixteen year old fan of Crazy Train’s, who won a contest to attend this particular family function and traveled two days on a bus from Idaho for the privilege of breaking bread with his idol.
Preparing the meal is Auntie Bobbie (Marylouise Burke) Crazy Train’s ditzy sister in law, who in her zeal to fit in perpetuates the wrestler’s legend, and is apparently blinded to the family’s chauvinistic treatment of her. As the tale begins, a lazy overweight Kyle Sligo (Michael Chernus), the younger of Crazy Train’s two sons and a chip off the old block, is waiting to be fed. Add to the mix Crazy Train’s recently deceased wife, whose presence is signified by flowers on her empty chair and the stage is set for the arrival of the older Sligo son, Victor (Paul Sparks), a coke addicted ex con with a major chip on his shoulder.
With Victor’s entrance the play moves into darkly comic high gear, and sparks literally fly as Victor unleashes a viciously hurtful assault on everyone in sight that is equal parts funny and frightening. As the evening unfolds we will meet the sibling’s gals, Lucy (Emily Cass McDonnell), a Piggly Wiggly check out girl with two children from a previous marriage, who is Victor’s main enabler and Cammie (Megan Mostyn-Brown), Kyle’s teenage main squeeze.
Rapp has staged the evening at a briskly paced 95 minutes that has emphasized the plays most harrowing effects and his actors are perfectly cast. Paul Sparks, however, is mercurial standout. He is one of the finest actors working on the New York theatrical scene today and his riveting presence as the tightly wound Victor ratchets up the evening’s stakes to horrific heights.
Although thematically slight, the gifted playwright, who has a knack for captivating dialogue and was a finalist for the 2006 Pulitzer Prize with Red Light Winter, has crafted a consistently entertaining puzzle. If the underpinnings of these flawed characters are not explicitly articulated in the text, the play, nonetheless, explodes in a crescendo of violent confrontations between the two brothers to its ultimately shocking conclusion, and the evening remains successful as an abrasive metaphor on the ills that bind.
By Gordin & Christiano
Originally Published in Dan's Papers
American Sligo opened at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, 224 Waverly Place (off Seventh Avenue South between 11th & Perry Streets), on September 24, 2007. Performances are Tuesday – Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 5pm. Tickets are available through SmartTix (212-868-4444) or HYPERLINK "http://www.smartix.com" www.smartix.com .