Cassandra has dreams of porcupines. It’s bitter cold. The rodents huddle together for warmth, prick/hurt one another, separate, grow cold again, and huddle. So it is with many of us.
Jessica Kuhne and Jean Brassard; Sofi Lambert
Noami (Jessica Kuhne) and Theodore (Jean Brassard) are a couple. After admiration, the thing she desperately wants is a baby. Her bored partner makes it clear he’s more concerned with what color he’ll die his hair. One gets the feeling neither has friends.
It’s Cassandra’s birthday. (Sofi Lambert) Celebrating so thoroughly she’s fraught, the young woman decorates, bakes a cake (resembling a porcupine) in a magic oven, sings, squeaks, squeals, dances, and chirps to party guests who aren’t there. Every word and move is wildly exaggerated. Photocopied invitations are disseminated to most everyone she meets. Will anyone come to her party?
Sofi Lambert and Yeauxlanda Kay; Vincent D’Arbouze
The hugely pregnant Suzanne (Yeauxlanda Kay) is minding the counter at Phil’s Corner Store. (She hasn’t had sex in 15 years. It’s immaculate, or in this case, surrealist conception.) To say the woman is bad tempered is to minimize her sour response to anyone in her path. Life stinks and, if prodded, she’ll tell you why.
Her brother Phil (Vincent D’Arbouze) is a bundle of ambulatory neuroses, the greatest insecurity stemming from a preadolescent rejection. He’s secretly in love with Cassandra. When a change of gravy at an habitual restaurant shakes one’s life, balance is precarious. Oh, Phil’s second profession is hairdresser.
Jessica Kuhne, Yeauxlanda Kay, Sofi Lambert
Suzanne’s unborn baby is passed from belly to belly by violent means, Theodore falls for Cassandra and is cruel to Noami, Noami and Suzanne accidentally meet at Cassandra’s party which causes a change in both, Phil musters the courage to declare himself…Very little ends well. There’s a wounded duck (a great puppet by Jean Marie Keevins), odd employment of a ski mask, a great deal of French pop music, and a truly romantic, unique birthday gift.
Porcupine is kind of a kitchen sink piece. Every unedited idea the playwright had is tossed in the mix. As a result, it’s a bit heavy handed in its quirkiness and over long. Still, the characters’ crossovers are telling and ultimate isolation is crystal clear.
Sofi Lambert and Jean Brassard
As Theodore, Jean Brassard must rise above dorky wigs (possibly intentional) and the vacillation of his director. The actor does create a markedly selfish beginning, a credibly smitten and disappointed center, and a defeated finish.
Between parentheses of over the top manic behavior, Jessica Kuhne gives us palpable fury and a later sea change.
Sofi Lambert’s theatrical skills are buried by direction.
Vincent D’Arbouze’s Philip is sweet and sympathetic, his anxiety realistic, depression weighing. In one passage, the actor appeals to audience members with empathetic success.
Yeauxlanda Kay is excellent throughout. She provides ballast, inhabits a solid character, and appears to think (as Suzanne) before she acts. An artist to watch.
Director Leta Tremblay has sculpted a Cassandra so abrasive and hysterical (not funny), it’s difficult to feel appropriate compassion. She also forces Noami into excessive expression where words and behavior would’ve been sufficient. These two tip the piece in a way that affects everything to the detriment of the writing. Nor can Tremblay decide whether to make Theodore innately callous or just fickle. Physical staging is effective.
This theater of the absurd piece spools out in vignettes. Three separate areas, defined by Lighting Designer Chelsie McPhilmy, present separate lives from which people “venture forth.” Loopy use of balloons, confetti and a metallic strip curtain work well in a friendly handmade way that suits the show – as does minimal furniture. Scenic Designer Angelica Borrero.
Photos by Audobon McKeown
Opening: Yeauxlanda Kay, Jean Brassard, Sofi Lambert, Vincent D’Arbouze, Jessica Kuhne
Porcupine by David Paquet
Translated by Maureen Labonte
Directed by Leta Tremblay
Through May 20, 2017
Actors Fund Art Center
160 Schermerhorn St. Brooklyn