Tuesday, December 16, 2014

What Did The White Rhino Think of "Horse Girls" at The Cell in NYC? - Unbridled Enthusiasm

I went to see the new Off-Broadway hit, "Horse Girls" last week at The Cell on W. 23rd St. in Chelsea not quite knowing what to expect.  This clever and hilarious black comedy reached out and lassoed both my heart and my sense of humor.  I laughed throughout this clever send-up of the over-the-top equestrian culture of entitled pubescent middle school girls.  The creative bridle trail that led to this current production began as a Fordham/Primary Stages MFA Project, and was then entered in the Ars Nova ANT Fest in 2013.

Playwright Jenny Rachel Weiner and Director Sarah Krohn have rounded up an amazing creative team and troupe of actors, corralling them in the intimate space of The Cell in a set by Daniel Geggett that immerses both cast and audience in a very realistic recreation of the bedroom of a rich 12-year-old girl who is obsessed with everything to do with horses.  Sound Design by Ben Truppin-Brown, Lighting by Alex deNevers, Costumes by Siena Zoe Allen and Special Effects by Amanda Perry work together to create an ecosystem with a high degree of verisimilitude.

Here is the set-up for the action of the play as described in the play's website:

"Twelve-year-old Ashleigh rules the Lady Jean Ladies, South Florida’s most exclusive horse club. Rumors that her family’s stables are being sold and their horses killed for meat throws the Ladies into crisis in this dark comedy of middle school deception and lies."

The actors playing the members of the Lady Jane Ladies Equestrian Club are:
  • Kaley Ronayne - Margaret
  • Maddie Sykes - Robin
  • Angeliea Stark as Tiffny
  • Olivia Macklin - Ashleigh
  • Anna Baryshnikov - Camille
  • Eleonore Condo - Trish
  • Katie Lawson - Brandi
They are a true ensemble, each actor playing a role somewhat subservient to Ashleigh (Olivia Macklin), who not only hosts the meetings of the Lady Jane Ladies in her lavishly appointed bedroom, but also cracks the whip to keep in line the other members whom she has clearly "broken to the bit" and can control with only a withering glare or a whine.  Each actor is completely believable as a pre-teen girl, with appropriate vocal inflections, awkward gestures and age-appropriate insecurities, histrionics and obsessions.  Their pledge to Ann Romney while gazing adoringly at a picture of the Would-Be-First Lady is a hoot and a highlight of the play.

Anna Baryshnikov (Camille), Kaley Ronayne (Margaret), Maddie Sykes (Robin), Eleonore Condo (Trish),
Angeliea Stark (Tiffany), Katie Lawson (Brandi),
Olivia Macklin (Ashleigh)

Ashleigh is clearly the ruling filly in this herd.  Her sense of entitlement is often highlighted when she gets on the intercom and barks orders at her Latina maid, who is never seen on stage. Ms. Macklin is masterful in portraying thinly veiled adolescent insecurity just barely hiding under a horse blanket of sang froid and hauteur.  The rest of the ensemble are equally impressive, each with their moment to shine in response to Ashleigh's pronouncements and fiats.  Things get interesting when a few of the fillies start to buck against Ashleigh's harsh hegemony.  The best way to think about this comedy with a few horsey bites is as a mash-up of "National Velvet" and "Carrie."

On the evening that I attended, the audience was wildly enthusiastic, so it is no surprise that the run of the show has now been extended to January 23.  Tickets are limited, so I encourage you to go on-line now, pony up the $20, and canter on down to Chelsea to see this thoroughly entertaining new play put on by a cast of thoroughbreds..



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