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2 Reprises: In PURSUIT of the ENGLISH Rose and DISORDEr

Venue: Goethe-Institut – Mainstage

Remaining Performance:

Saturday, July 24, 11 a.m.

They say: “Laugh, cry, fall in love, with a cockney and a hoarder! 2006 CapFringe sell-out ‘English’ recreates Rose’s wit and pathos surviving Nobel Laureate Doris Lessing’s Post-War London. ‘DISORDEr’ humorously exposes PakratPatty’s Collector-itis and Disposophobia — an obsessive-compulsive’s must-see! Comedy-Drama Double Bill.

Chris’s take: 2 Reprises is a double-bill of one-woman shows by local actress Hilary Kascer.  The first piece is adapted from a memoir by the same name of post-war London by Doris Lessing. In it, Kascer embodies a woman named Rose Jennings who loved a Canadian boy killed in the war, and is now in her calculating way courting the man from whom she buys her cigarettes. The second piece, DISORDEr, is a first-person account of a hoarder, Pakrat Patty, trying to keep her obsessive need to be surrounded by her junk from derailing her love life.

There’s no strong thematic link between the two pieces, except perhaps for the fact that Patty’s mother lived in London in wartime.

What really struck me, though, was how different the experience of watching the two pieces was, despite the fact that both are essentially monologues by the same actress. In the first piece, Kascer, as Rose, addresses an imaginary and absent Doris Lessing. Kascer, in other words, performs for us but not to us—we’re just eavesdropping.  In the second piece, Patty addresses us directly, and we are more in the realm of performance art than of theater.

Kascer strikes me as a first-rate actress, highly believable, linguistically and otherwise, as a British woman of another era; and entertainingly quirky as not just Patty but a stray cast of the people who pop in and out of her story (Patty’s landlord, her boyfriend, a TV producer, etc.).  Kascer is less impressive as a storyteller.  The vignettes based on Lessing feel like paragraphs excerpted from a book without enough context to really make sense. The tale of Pakrat Patty doesn’t go far from where it starts. Either the story should take us somewhere (Patty throws away all her junk, marries her boyfriend, and lives happily ever after). Or, if this is in essence a tale of existential stuckness, then the narrative and performance should make that apparent.

See it if: You enjoy watching a talented actress act.

Skip it if: You go for plays over monologues and/or performance art.