Brit scripter Jim Cartwright is best known for the legiter, “The Rise and Fall of Little Voice,” which was adapted for the Michael Caine/Jane Horrocks pic, “Little Voice.” Cartwright has made a career of spotlighting the most marginalized members of society, and he certainly has succeeded in this grimy but often comical tale of a low-rung streetwalker and her luckless client, produced in conjunction with the citywide Edge of the World Festival. Helmer Russell Milton guides the capable duo of Jennifer Pennington and Martin Bedoian through every grubby nuance of the cesspool relationship of two social rejects that discover they may have found some sense of solace and safety in one another.
Cartwright insinuates the two into each other’s lives, creating an often repulsive but still fascinating union of two dregs of society who inflict and/or absorb abuse as naturally as they breathe air. Milton wisely underscores the humanity and humor of this obtuse pas de deux, never allowing the grotesque reality of their relationship to overpower their inner need to bond with another human life.
“Slag” is Britspeak for “whore” and Pennington’s ragingly aggressive street pro simply wallows in every putrid aspect of her chosen career. She readily shouts out a hearty, “Do you want to do some business?,” offering a checklist and price for any physical degradation that might suit a prospective client’s fancy. The endless parade of tricks are just an inconsequential means to the main reason for her existence, to eventually lose herself in the all-enveloping ecstasy of a crack-heroin high.
Pennington projects an impressive physical and vocal energy as her Slag contorts her body and soul, whether it be raging to the empty street in her need for a fix or giving way to the all-controlling gyrations inflicted by her latest crack high.
Into her seedy existence stumbles Bedoian’s bedraggled, pitiful excuse for a human being, who admits the only time in his life anyone noticed him was as a school child, “when I peed on myself during assembly.” A squirrelly, introverted lingerie fetishist who is also fixated on the music of ’60s British pop star Kathy Kirby, this hapless trick suddenly makes a connection to some other life than his own when he compulsively runs his tongue over the deodorant recently used by his paid companion.
Bedoian counterbalances Pennington perfectly, allowing his hapless swain to be totally subservient to her demands and needs as long as he can absorb the dubious residue of her life.
The production designs of Donna Marquet (sets), Martha Demson (lights), Michael Resnick (sound) and Annie Dunn (costumes) do much to underscore the sordid squalor that completely envelops this duo.