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The Future's so Bright...

YourfaceisamessWelcome along Adam David Brown ( a.k.a East Coast correspondent for this here blog ) and his review of the play "Your Face is a Mess"

The Future's so Bright...

As infants we come to depend on our caretakers for sustenance, for safety, and love. The emotional attachment can have profound implications for how we come to organize and relate to individuals throughout our lives, depending on if these early attachments fostered a sense of security or a sense of danger and unpredictability. It can also drive the attachments we seek as adults. In Marc Spitz's (former editor of SPIN magazine and playwright) newest play, Your Face is a Mess, (the title is a lyric from “Rebel Rebel” by David Bowie) Spitz creatively depicts a set of individuals who remain in many ways children – or at least extended adolescents- who have not yet fully emerged into adults. They continue to rely on emotional comfort and predictability, not from parents or lovers, but from their drug dealer Moses. 

Ivan Martin, who plays Moses, does an excellent job of portraying the not too intelligent slacker drug dealer. His messy black hair, his well-worn Nico t-shirt, his frequent 80's quotes, and his “Eye of the Tiger” cell-phone ring have a look and an attitude that make his character immediately funny and likable. Moses, listening to his hand-held transistor radio, hears a news clip about three dogs that died from an infection because they were found carrying liquid heroin in their stomachs to smuggle drugs into the U.S. The news serves as a form of epiphany, and Moses decides to call it quits. Through his affect and gestures, we understand that something in his core has shifted. Although, Moses may not have the vocabulary, Martin successfully conveys that Moses, perhaps for the first time, is thinking about how his behaviors influences others – and thus, we begin to watch Moses grow up. Through Spitz's writing and Martin's portrayal, we can tell that his character will be more than a prop for humor, but rather a vehicle for human development and growth. 

To help introduce us to the rest of the characters, Spitz has us follow Moses on a sojourn to tell his customers the news of his retirement from dealing. We meet Denny, a TV producer, who characterizes what Reich (1933) would probably refer to as the “Phallic Narcissistic Character.” Denny is arrogant, entitled, aggressive, and sharp- tongued. He is funny, but it usually comes as at the cost of devaluing others. Denny has just been diagnosed with Prostate Cancer on his birthday. Rather than get radiation, Denny decides that he wants to stay high until the end, and his choice of treatment is “China White” heroin. Needless to say, when Moses informs him that he is no longer going to be able to supply him with heroin or coke, Denny must face his fears, anger, and disappointment. 

We also meet Bette, played by Camille Habacker, an aging soap-opera actress who learns that she is getting killed off the show that Denny produces. Also a former customer of Moses, Bette is left without drugs or her role, and we see her fear of rejection and abandonment emerge. We get the sense that Bette has been playing her character for so long, that Better doesn't know who she is. Habacker's ability to convey Bette's desperation along side her self-entitlement is impressive. Like Moses and Denny, Bette's self absorption and anxiety is filtered through humor. She bosses her assistant around, a gay man with an infant child, calling his baby “it” and telling him to shut “it” up with champagne. She says something like, put some champagne on your finger, that's what my parents did, it always worked for me (she then takes a long swig of champagne). 

The show is divided into skits that connect the characters in their post-adolescent coming of age story. Tying Moses, Better, and Denny together, Bradford Scobie impressively plays over 8 characters such as a therapist, a cancer blogger, a woman, a musician, a school principal, and a dog. His style is flexible and playful and one could imagine that he incorporates a lot of improvisation into his work. 

While the play shows us how each character becomes increasingly genuine and individuated, Spitz's depiction of them is neither romantic or idealized. Denny's therapist is elated when Denny terminates therapy. Bette sleeps with Moses because, she has nothing else better to do. Even Moses who is attracted to Betty states that they better be drunk if they're going to a have sex because only crazy people do it sober. Even as the characters become more “real,” they remain behind a certain facade.

While this play is couched in the world of artists, musicians, and actors, it captures the universal feelings that many can relate to—looking for some genuine connection through life's difficulties, Moses's irrational and superstitious thinking, Bette's loneliness, and Denny's anger at how unfair and unjust the world is. Luckily for these characters they seemed to be given a second chance. When Moses tells each of his former customers that he is done selling drugs, he offers them a pair of sunglasses (he works part-time at the Sunglass Hut). Moses, the “good enough” parent, allows them to go and to grow up, and for these characters the future's so bright....

Your Face is a Mess is playing at the Kraine Theater in the East Village, NYC through March 3, 2007.

David Bowie - Rebel Rebel (US Single Version) , 2003 version

+ Rebel Rebel - "After retiring the song on the 1990 Sound + Vision tour, Bowie brought "Rebel Rebel" back for the 1999 'hours...' promotional tour."
+ Your Face Is A Mess: The Play @ myspace

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