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The List
Redlight

Theatre Review by Matthew Murray

The List

The set at The List, which is playing at the White Box at 440 Studios as part of the New York International Fringe Festival, may start bare, but it doesn't stay that way for long. The unblemished ivory coloring of the floor, a chest, and a bookcase begins turning black almost with the commencement of the first scene of Jennifer Tremblay's play, and doesn't stop for an hour. By the time the lone performer, Sofi Lambert, is finished, words cover practically every surface, and her face and bare legs are smudged with the dark, greasy pastel she's been using to keep track of... well, pretty much everything, but first and foremost her life. Remembering the death of her close friend Caroline has left this woman so distraught that only complete and total order — at the expense of anything and everything else — can salve the wounds of her loss.

Tremblay has fashioned a potentially rich psychological portrait of this spinning soul, who forces you to see how remarkable her ordinariness is by virtue of progressing through it with an almost bloody devotion to methodology, but this production never quite reaches its full potential. The play lacks the kind of sweeping poetry and musical urgency one suspects it must have had when it was originally seen in Quebec, in French; Shelley Tepperman's translation is efficient but toneless, precisely capturing every word but stumbling over the deeper feelings and confusions so latent in the woman's story. We need to see how her relationship with Caroline shapes her, building her up and then tearing her down, but most of the crucial steps in that journey are left unmade.

Although Lambert is highly likable and possesses exactly the detached rigidity needed to convince you of the woman's hidebound meticulous nature, she stumbles over the language, delivering too much of her dialogue with an awkward syncopation that teases your feelings but constantly stops just short of bringing them out. Katie McHugh's direction is focused and driven, and beautiful in the way it alternates between the sonorous and silent moments that torment the woman in different ways. But it needs an avatar capable of linking them with the action, and it doesn't have one in Lambert.

She appears most comfortable when she's stooped over, scribbling words and phrases on the floor and trying to force herself to perform one last impossible task, which she also sees as the most important she's ever faced. But as she drifts throughout her one-two-three world, her plans get smeared and spread until they're basically unrecognizable, leaving her and us to question even the most simplest actions in our deceptively complex existence. It's a powerful sustained image, and one that elevates The List. Too bad it's otherwise anchored to the ground.

The List
Through August 23
The White Box at 440 Studios, 440 Lafayette St, 3rd Floor (Astor Place & East 4th Street)
Tickets and current schedule" FringeNYC.org


Redlight

A straight man walks into a gay strip club — and starts dancing there? As unlikely as this scenario may be, it's apparently the real-life basis for Ryan Kipp's one-man Fringe play Redlight, playing at the White Box. Kipp, who's actually heterosexual and actually did this in Atlanta a number of years ago, is attempting to use his experience to explore questions of sexuality and masculinity that extend beyond old-fashioned concepts of orientation. He monologues his way through a number of loosely linked characters (one is based on him, one is his business-focused boss, another a military man whose boyfriend masqueraded behind a woman's name, and so on) to create a vivid tapestry showing the myriad ways sex, gender, and self-image interlock.

It's an ambitious undertaking, and one that codirectors Jennifer Tuttle and Marc Santa Maria have helped shape into the beginning of a probing and exciting evening. Unfortunately, a beginning is all it is right now. As Redlight runs scarcely more than half an hour, Kipp doesn't have enough time to develop his ideas beyond the “character sketch” stage, which affects both your assimilation of his portrayals and his. Differences between the men (and one woman) he plays range from subtle to nonexistent, and without that deeper contrast it's difficult for the action to ever play as much more than a misty collage of faded portraits. That the portrayals don't add up to much doesn't help Kipp achieve his goals, either.

There's even a trace of exploitation at work. Kipp's use of full-frontal nudity at one point comes dangerously close to pandering to the gay audience, and fails at its intended (and stated) objective of showing how the boundaries between straight and gay are seldom as pronounced as they might seem when human connection is the aim. For a show that aspires to be an even-handed and level-headed examination of these complex issues, this is almost a betrayal of Kipp's entire point. Redlight has a fascinating concept, and is undeniably the seed of a show that could enduring appeal to everyone, if only Kipp is more willing to give it sufficient room and time to grow.

Redlight
Through August 26
The White Box at 440 Studios, 440 Lafayette St, 3rd Floor (Astor Place & East 4th Street)
Tickets and current schedule" FringeNYC.org