BWW Review: Butterflies Aren't Free in Ridley's MERCURY FUR

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Off-Broadway's The New Group is known for selecting plays that lean towards being edgy and controversial. Director Scott Elliot's sharp and tense production of Philip Ridley's 2005 post-apocalyptic drama Mercury Fur sure has the look and feel of something edgy and controversial, but the text would be more aptly described as vague and tedious.

Jack DiFalco and Zane Pais (Photo: Monique Carboni)

All the dystopian prerequisites are there. Something happened. It's never clear exactly what but the city is in shambles with great landmarks destroyed and the streets taken over by violent gangs. Those in the know are aware that it's about to get worse. (The locale has been switched from London to New York for this production.)

Survivors escape their misery by devouring hallucinogenic butterflies.

Teenage brothers Elliot (Zane Pais) and Darren (Jack DiFalco) are butterfly dealers who host parties in abandoned buildings where those with money can get their kicks by committing brutal acts to captured victims. Today's customer (Peter Mark Kendall) is up for some fun involving a meat hook and a barely conscious child (Bradley Fong).

Sea McHale, Jack DiFalco, Zane Pais and
Emily Cass McDonnell (Photo: Monique Carboni)

Elliot's transgender girlfriend Lola (Paul Iacono) pops in to help out, but there's an unexpected arrival from gang leader Spinx (Sea McHale) and his blind girlfriend known as The Duchess (Emily Cass McDonnell) who speaks nonsense in haughty tones. The character is so out of whack with the rest of the grim proceedings that she seems to have been inserted for comic relief and McDonnell's outgoing performance hints at being a tongue-in-cheek mockery of the empty seriousness of the drama.

While the admirable actors do as much as can be expected with the material, the production's most impressive feature is set designer Derek McLane's finely detailed depiction of a crumbling apartment. The audience is seated on two sides with those up front sitting on old couches and living room chairs. The intention, no doubt, is to make patrons feel like they're silent guests at the party, but there's the added bonus that it's impossible for anyone to walk out without being noticed.

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