Welcome 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
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