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Fatal Attraction: A Greek Tragedy (or Don't Be The Bunny)

You know, I'm really not sure if I've ever seen the 1987 movie Fatal Attraction. My most vivid memory of it comes from the autumn on Fire Island I spent reading Susan Faludi's feminist manifesto Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women. (Do gender rights activists still read that one, or has it been dismissed as victimization hogwash?) Anyway, for those who weren't with me that fall of '92, Faludi dedicated a big hunk of the book to how the film Fatal Attraction exemplifies Hollywood's massive plot to influence American movie-goers into idealizing the role of submissive motherhood while villainizing female independence.

And I think I may have seen a parody of it on Saturday Night Live at one time or another.

But this is America, where we still have the right to form opinions on works of art we haven't seen, so I felt no obligation to view the source material before taking in Alana McNair and Kate Wilkinson's snazzy bit o' silliness, Fatal Attraction: A Greek Tragedy.

As I recall, Fatal Attraction is the one where Michael Douglas plays a smug hot-shot misogynist. Okay, it's one of the ones where Michael Douglas plays a smug hot-shot misogynist. He's a lawyer married to the Suzy Homemaker-ish Anne Archer, but starts banging hotshot businesswoman Glenn Close on the side. (Well, not literally on the side... he's usually banging her on... oh, you know...) Close gets pregnant, Close gets dumped, Close starts harassing Douglas' family and his little girl's pet rabbit gets boiled. Smells like traditional family values to me.

As you may have guessed from the title, the authors have noticed a few similarities between this sexual tale of a woman driven to bloodshed and revenge and the texts of ancient Greece. Most notably Medea by Euripides comes to mind. So in an inspired move, a Greek chorus (Nick Arens, Sergio Lobito, Kellie Arens, and Ebony A. Cross) is used to narrate and comment on the action using both ancient texts and not-quite-as-ancient quotes from 19th Century home etiquette books. What makes the gimmick so deliciously funny is that director Timothy Haskell keeps the chorus anchored with deadpan ritualistic solemnity while the main players act their roles with so many winks to the audience they may as well be delivering their lines in Morse Code.

Since nobody really cares about characters' names in movies, the actors refer to themselves as "Michael Douglas", "Glenn Close" and "Anne Archer". At one point the babysitter introduces herself with, "Hi, I'm Jane Krakowski", to which Archer barks back, "Not yet, you're not."

The authors are well cast in the two female leads with Wilkinson as a lovingly vapid Anne Archer and McNair as a wildly psycho Glenn Close. Aaron Haskell is a standout as the androgynously adorable daughter, played in the film by Ellen Hamilton Latzen.

1980's child star Corey Feldman is an absolute hoot as Michael Douglas with his face continually scrunched and his voice in a sing-songy sneer. Like the others, he pretty much has one note to play throughout the piece; but he plays it with panache. And how refreshing it is to see a celebrity making his stage debut in a small Off-Broadway production as part of an ensemble cast and playing a role that's within his capabilities. Kudos to Feldman for wetting his feet the smart way and looking good doing it.

Although Wilkinson and McNair have come up with a clever concept the script seems to run out of steam about mid-way through the play's 70 minutes, mostly due to funny ideas that lack effective punch lines. The "boiled bunny dream/dance sequence" sounds fun in theory, especially when it includes a Virginia Reel, but despite a fine effort by choreographer Rebecca Ramirez, it's crow-barred into the proceedings so late in the game that its purposelessness overwhelms any potential for laughs. And although fight choreographer Rod Kinter's "Kung-Pow action sequence" has many humorous moments, the routine overstays its welcome.

Fortunately director Haskell's hyperactive staging, performed by a cast that's obviously having a ball, maintains the sense that something funny is going on even when the material isn't quite there. At one point or another you may find yourself aware that you haven't laughed in a while, but the stuff is so entertaining that you probably won't mind.

Set designer Paul Smithyman scores some solid points with sight gags you can catch even before the play begins. Vincent Olivieri's sound design and Tyler Micoleau's lights play up the mock dramatics, as do Wendy Yang's character-driven costumes.

Although Fatal Attraction: A Greek Tragedy can use a bit of punching up where laugh lines are concerned, there's still enough fresh and lively fun to keep you smiling, especially with this spot-on production. Check your brain and your feminist ideals at the door and go have a blast.

 

Photos by Gabe Evans: Top: Alana McNair and Corey Feldman
Center: Kate Wilkinson, Corey Feldman and Aaron Haskell
Bottom: Corey Feldman and Alana McNair

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From This Author Michael Dale