Friday, February 27, 2015

Theatre Askew Presents "Horseplay:or The Fickle Mistress, a Protean Picaresque" - Final Weekend at La Mama

Theatre Askew exists to prompt and to prod audiences into looking at issues of gender in new ways. The current production of  "Horseplay:or The Fickle Mistress, a Protean Picaresque"  by Trav S. D. does just that as it takes a phantasmagorical look at the life of legendary performer and artiste, Adah Isaacs Menken.  She often performed on horseback as Mazeppa.  She sometimes attired herself in men's clothing, took as lovers both men and women, and seemed to be always reinventing herself and the stories she told of her life.  Think of a combination of Mae West, Annie Oakley and Lady Gaga and you will begin to conjure a picture that woman that was Mazeppa.

The play is presented as a picaresque, jumping from incident to incident as Adah recounts stories to her would-be biographer Frank Queen (Chuck Montgomery) about her adventures and misadventures.

Once I accepted the genre that was being presented, I settled in and enjoyed the ride.  The acing was campy, befitting the Bohemian and outre life of Ms. Menken.  Molly Pope is terrific as the mysterious lady who called George Sand her friend, and who sent shock waves through society by marrying an Irish pugilist, portrayed seductively by Mark St. Cyr.  Joining in the fun are the other effective cast members: Tiffany Abercrombie, Tim Cusack, Jan Leslie Harding and Everett Quinton.  Elsye Singer directs the action and keeps things moving at a brisk pace.

The very flexible and movable set pieces designed by Liz Toonkel allow the action to move from horse ring to mountains to boudoirs in a flash.  Lighting by Deborah Constantine, Costumes by Becky Hubbert, Musical Direction and Original Music by William TN Hall and Choreography by Antonio Brown help to turn the performance space at the iconic La Mama into the kind of carnival atmosphere that Mazeppa would have relished. Who was she?  Well, in her words, "I am whoever I need to be."

This fun play helps us to consider the role that women played in the early history of American popular culture.  The play runs through this weekend, so make your way to the East Village and climb aboard for a fun ride with "Horseplay."

For tickets, click below.

La Mama Website



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