Suzanne Maynard’s “postmodern fairy tale” fails in its most elementary responsibility, which is to tell a compelling story. Despite Michael Michetti’s imaginative, image-laden staging and a few outstanding performances, Maynard’s sojourn into the coming of age of the monumentally sociopathic young noblewoman Beatrice (Wendy Abas) offers too little about too unworthy a heroine.
Raised on an isolated estate by her strong-willed French maid (Jayne Taini), the virginal but surly Beatrice is a walking mass of frustration. An orphan, she lusts after handsome, Italian-born gardener Samuel (Karl Bury), while constantly being bedeviled by the maid’s sluttish daughter, Daphne (Jody Hahn), who is currently in lust with Jake (Jacob Sidney), an easygoing local fisherman.
Further vexing Beatrice is the arrival, on her 20th birthday, of her fiance (Charlie Dell), whom she has never met but to whom she has been contracted to marry by her long-deceased father. Beatrice laments that she is being forced to dress like a “bottle of milk and spill down the aisle.” The enterprising young woman, however, is not at all reticent about planning the demise of anyone who gets in the way of her interests. Unfortunately, the playwright never makes clear what these interests are.
Maynard has infused the tale with some intriguing mystical business concerning the death of Beatrice’s mother and the magical powers of the orange-red roses in the garden that are cared for so attentively by Samuel, but never gets around to developing a satisfactory arc for Beatrice’s evolution into womanhood. By play’s end, Beatrice is still a murderously unhappy bad seed, who leaves the estate with the fiance only because she has been unable to manipulate any other options. There is simply no justification for the time that has been spent with this person.
Abas fails to transcend the playwright’s limited concept, offering a one-dimensional portrait of unrequited angst. Taini’s maid is certainly more colorful but her high-powered verbal blasts appear to be aimed at the actors performing in the theater down the street rather than those occupying the same stage.
On the plus side, Dell (“Evening Shade”) offers a mannered, comedic persona that is completely out of sync with the rest of the ensemble but is hilarious nonetheless. Also lending solid support is Bury, who invests the gardener with an attractive balance of sensuality and dignity.
The inventive indoor-outdoor set design of M.E. Dunn and Charley McQuary makes excellent use of the Hudson Guild’s limited stage space.