There is, indeed, a lot of silliness in Mallery Avidon’s new play, now having its world premiere at the Flea Theater. The Olsen duo (or at least, sketch comedy versions of them) are heavily featured as purveyors of consumerism. Early on, Mary-Kate (Christine Lee) and Ashley (Kana Hatakeyama) rattle off a list of essentials, each using the same sing-songy Valley Girl voice. Here are a few of their requirements: “film festivals and skiing, $20 scented candles, furniture not purchased at IKEA, an herb garden, a favorite specialty cocktail…”
But it is not simply the satire of the obvious that the playwright is going for. Gradually, you come to realize that the play is actually about the plight of 20-somethings, floundering to find their place in the world. They are past their late adolescence but not fully integrated as grownups. And it’s not actually the title character or her sister who are at the center of things, but rather a young married couple, equally despondent over the direction their lives have taken.
The focus of the play is on Grace (very well played by Katherine Folk-Sullivan). It is she who has conjured up Mary-Kate and Ashley in her troubled mind as a defense against loneliness and disappointment, along the lines of “is that all there is to life?” The Olsens appear when Grace, having once again fallen asleep in front of the television set, is in dreamland.
Meanwhile, there is Grace’s husband Tyler (Alex Grubbs), out of work for four years and living the slacker’s life that encompasses video games, pot, and pizza, while his wife works, pays the bills, and watches endless television. These are not happy campers, but are victims of growing up in a world where they have been told they could accomplish anything they set their sights upon, and later finding out that life is filled with disappointment and drudgery.
Ultimately, the conjured-up Mary Kate tells Grace she has fallen in love with her and is ready to abjure celebrity and move to a beach in Australia. Grace, she says, should leave Tyler and go with her. Meanwhile, Tyler has his own doppelgänger, a soldier (Alex Mandell) who tries to break Tyler out of his lethargy and warns him that Grace is getting ready to leave him.
Grace allows Mary-Kate to convince her to go, and for a time they transfer their lives to the beach, though exchanging one purposeless lifestyle for another does not do the trick. As for Tyler, the only thing the soldier has convinced him to do is to enlist in the Army, which has consequences of its own. By play’s end, Grace’s epiphany is knowing what it is that she does not want out of life, which, one hopes, might be enough to set her moving in another direction.
Mary-Kate Olsen Is In Love is a fast-paced play, running about an hour in length. It is cleverly written and is well directed by Kristan Seemel. The cast is made up of members of The Flea’s excellent resident acting company, known as The Bats, and includes a group of five members who serve as a Greek Chorus to the proceedings and perhaps as echoes of Grace’s younger more ambitious self: Crystal Arnette, Rachel Lin, Elizabeth May, Vicki Rodriguez, and Bonnie White. All do splendidly with this darkly comic cautionary tale.
Mary-Kate Olsen Is In Love