Regional Reviews: New Jersey
Ten Percent of Molly Snyder:
At the opening, as Molly, who is an artist, enters an office, we glimpse a sign on the door bearing the inscription Main Office DMV. Seated behind the desk is a soft, rounded, balding and bespectacled middle aged man who identifies himself as Mr. Aaron. All that poor Molly seeks is to have the address corrected (two numbers in her street address have been transposed) on her driver's license. Before Molly is able to tell him this, he interrupts her and tells her to "... drop it. You have a complaint, but accept it or it will be worse for you."
By now, this reviewer found himself not too happily anticipating a long one-acter during which Molly will get into deeper and deeper trouble at the DMV by not taking the clearly unacceptable advice proffered. Surely, this material should not be stretched beyond the parameters of a Saturday Night Live sketch.
However, as the curtain arises on next scene, there is an unexpected shift in location. This will prove to be true for each of five additional scenes. Throughout, the office set remains the same, but for each new scene, the window on the rear wall reveals a view of a different location, and the sign on the outside of the door bears a new inscription. As Molly enters each office (the first three of these offices are at a newspaper, bank mortgage department, and art gallery), the occupant (portrayed by Mr. Pollard) appears to be Mr. Aaron, but each time yet again identifies himself as being another person while projecting a persona that is in part distinctive. The artists' agent in the art gallery, who at first appears to be light in the loafers, identifies him(her)self as a young Asian female.
It seems that rather than correcting the address on her driver's license, the DMV has erroneously caused a death certificate to be issued for Molly. As a result, the newspaper has printed her obituary. In turn, this causes the bank to foreclose her mortgage, and prevents her gallery from paying her for her paintings. Enraged beyond endurance, Molly becomes hysterical and strangles the artists' agent.
Three more scenes remain. They are located in the White House oval office, the executioner's office, and, finally, back at the DMV. Along with Molly, we gradually come to realize that each bureaucratic figure whom she encounters (including the US President) is the same self-satisfied incompetent as the last. There is a twist in the final scene which, although clever, is neither enlightening nor resonant.
As this Kafkaesque situation develops, we are initially somewhat intrigued. However, ultimately, the sense that we are watching sketch comedy (albeit wrapped in absurdism) returns in the lazily written oval office scene. Here, the scheduled-to-be-executed Molly enters unescorted and asks the President for a pardon. The latter blithely grants one, and then, just as blithely, concedes that it will not save Molly's life because it cannot be processed until after the execution.
Ten Percent of Molly Snyder offers too many scenes and consumes too much stage time to make the undisputed and indisputable point that bureaucracies can be frustrating and destructive. Perhaps, if Richard Strand's play were more than intermittently amusing, this would seem less of a problem. Additionally, the use of pencils (and jokes built around them) in this age of computerization makes the entire play feel anachronistic.
Michael Irvin Pollard is excellent as all the bureaucratic types (as well as Molly's mother). Although the play and each of its characters are lacking in nuance, Pollard delivers subtle shadings which differentiate each role from the others. Yet he maintains a sufficient number of similarities in the manner and personality of each to make manifest that somehow, all are one and the same person. Stephanie Dorian projects a nice, slightly comedic personality as Molly. However, when hysteria overtakes Molly, Dorian becomes a bit too shrill.
Director SuzAnne Barabas continues to show a fine hand for directing comedy, and she extracts as much humor as possible from the schematic script. Jessica Parks' interesting set combines realistic and surreal elements. However, I found the mixture of photographs and drawings for the views through the office window distracting.
Ten Percent of Molly Snyder is mildly interesting and contains some clever ideas. However, it is too slight and loosely written to fulfill the requirements for a satisfying full length play.
Ten Percent of Molly Snyder continues performances through June 26, 2005 (Thurs.-Sat. 8pm/ Sat. 4pm/ Sun. 2pm) at the New Jersey Repertory Company (Lumia Theatre), 179 Broadway, Long Branch, NJ 07740. Box Office: 732-229-3166; online: www.njrep.org.
Ten Percent of Molly Snyder by Richard Strand; directed by SuzAnne Barabas