No Good Things Dwell in the Flesh

Agata (Kellie Overbey) is a 64 year-old Russian immigrant divorcée whose accent and syntax retain signs of origin. Having taught herself sewing and alterations, she owns a tailor shop, succinctly called Tailor Shop. The modest establishment is successful enough to pick and choose jobs and clients: No zippers – too much time running around town trying to match an original. No one who won’t accept her diagnosis of what needs to be done. Agata is honest, abrupt, pragmatic and perceptive. She adheres to high standards.

In exchange for learning skills, naïve 30 year-old assistant Janice (Carmen Zilles) floats in and out taking assignments between moaning about the difficulty of finding a mate. She has sufficient burgeoning talent for Agata to invest time and energy in hopes the young woman might take over – but no discipline. “You can be a lawyer or a doctor in ten years. You can’t be alteration in ten years,” the tailor notes. After endless unsatisfactory online-generated dates, Janice meets and goes overboard about Eddie who will inadvertently change everything.

Carmen Zilles (Janice) and Kellie Overbey (Agata)

One day, Vlad (T. Ryder Smith), a Romanian immigrant, comes looking for Agata. The first in a succession of forays is to request pockets in his skivvies in order to smuggle money. She throws him out. The second is to take in a pair of pants that appear to fit perfectly. When Agata puts her fingers in the back of the waistband, he practically swoons. They knew one another years ago ostensibly before he became mentally unstable.

Agata is at a point in her life when she’s ready to move on. The character is beautifully written as is every reference to and description of alternations. While the other two principals also seem authentic, Janice is much less interesting than Vlad whose expansion might make a better play. What was their liaison like? How would it reveal more about Agata? When and why did his mind go south?

T. Ryder Smith (Vlad)

Central pleasure here comes from Kellie Overbey’s terrific performance. We feel as if we’re observing a whole person. Her accent is understated, sustained. (Dialect Coach-Charmian Hoare) One wonders whether the actor has given her character a backstory. Agata knows what she wants and what she won’t put up with. Overbey imbues her with history that’s taught her to protect herself. Whatever maternal feelings she musters are visibly directed toward Janice who must, her mentor knows, find her own way.

T. Ryder Smith creates a man about whom we want to know more. The idée fixe of Agata compels every irrational move. Vlad is palpably unmoored in this actor’s hands. He vibrates and sparks. Performance is unnerving, yet sympathetic.

As Janice, Carmen Zilles offers susceptibility, confusion, hope, tremulous ability to risk. She’s protective of Agata but respectfully bows to wishes she doesn’t understand. A credible turn.

Also with Megan Lomax and Jeffrey Brabant.

Kellie Overbey (Agata)

There’s a single reference to kidney ailment. Towards the end, three characters- two unnecessary –  appear in scrubs. Is the tailor hiding lethal disease? A press release refers to her confronting mortality. We never see it. Allusion to a daughter in London is also extraneous. The piece is a well executed portrait, but what is it about?

Director Rory McGregor has skill with flow, moving characters in, out, and around the small tailor shop. (An invisible wall breaks twice, however, when actors enter without its otherwise important/focal door.) Agata’s gestures are those of someone who had to explain with her hands before language (English) was available to her. Her bearing is aptly proud, sharp, and stiff.  Janice is believably loosey goosey. Vlad’s emotional issues are vividly manifest. The play’s visual ending is inspired.

A single physical confrontation is wincingly real. (Fight Choreographer John Blair)

Brendan Gonzales Boston’s minimal set design is appropriate; a suspended line of hanging clothes both a good visual and evocatively used.

Costumes by Johanna Pan reflect personality. Vlad’s street clothes with rubber thongs, for example and his sleezy seduction outfit; Agata’s perpetual, well worn cardigan sweater, as if she’s innately cold. I don’t buy Janice’s high style hairdo change.

I have no clue what the title means.

Photos by Marie Baranova
Opening: Kellie Overbey (Agata and Carmen Zilles (Janice)

No Good Things Dwell in the Flesh by Christina Masciotti
Directed by Rory McGregor

Through September 23, 2023
The Jeffrey and Paula Gural Theatre at A.R.T./New York Theatres
502 West 53rd Street

About Alix Cohen (1750 Articles)
Alix Cohen is the recipient of ten New York Press Club Awards for work published on this venue. Her writing history began with poetry, segued into lyrics and took a commercial detour while holding executive positions in product development, merchandising, and design. A cultural sponge, she now turns her diverse personal and professional background to authoring pieces about culture/the arts with particular interest in artists/performers and entrepreneurs. Theater, music, art/design are lifelong areas of study and passion. She is a voting member of Drama Desk and Drama League. Alix’s professional experience in women’s fashion fuels writing in that area. Besides Woman Around Town, the journalist writes for Cabaret Scenes, Broadway World, TheaterLife, and Theater Pizzazz. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine, Times Square Chronicles, and ifashionnetwork. She lives in Manhattan. Of course.