Séance on West 36th: Screaming Ouija Jeebees

Séance on West 36th is a pair of one act plays by Michael Kalmen, known for his film work with the San Francisco/>/> drag legends The Cockettes. It is produced by fellow Bay City/>/> group The Xoregos Performing Company, under the direction of company founder Shela Xoregos. The company brought the Surrealist/Dada piece On the Banks of the Surreal to New York/>/> earlier this year. This latest work is running as part of the Where Eagles Dare Fall Mini-Festival.

The first play, In Re: Mr Stanley, is a quintet of monologues about sordid dealings at a posh law firm. The short tales of sex, embezzlement, and casual murder are told by broadly drawn characters, such as a vain actress (Elizabeth Ruelas), a neglected but shopping crazed wife (Kristen Duffy), a sexy receptionist (Quinn Warren), and a cleaning woman of vague East-European origin (Camille Mazurek). In Re: Mr. Stanley has a trite and dated feel; as the titular murderous lawyer, Ed Roggenkamp is given a slimy, vulgar character reminiscent of Gordon Gekko in the film Wall Street. Perhaps there is supposed to be a "whodunit" element, but the puzzle pieces are so huge and obvious that there is little surprise to the revelations.

Things improve somewhat in the second half. Séance at Fountainbleau is a cute tale about a pair of "psychic" hucksters (Mr. Roggenkamp and Ms. Ruelas). The good-humored but greedy couple canoodle as they plot swindle a flighty widow (Camille Mazurek). Of course, during the fake séance, something surprisingly supernatural occurs (in the person of Ms. Warren). Though not all the humor succeeds, it is a harmlessly amusing piece. Ms. Ruelas is entertaining during her full-on Psychic Friend shtick. Playwright Kalmen has fun with the clairvoyant con-artist concept, perhaps inspired by the Lunt play The Great Sebastians.

Sadly, the acting throughout the evening is a disappointment. Amateurish over-enunciation, jerking pauses, and ardently unsubtle performances are so widespread that I have to assume they were an intentional decision of the director. Costumer Elgie Chevalier mostly provides ill-fitting, distractingly unattractive thrift store rejects. There is none of the campy, bizarre irreverence here that is associated with Kalmens' Cockettes work from the 70s, though Séance provides a few spirited moments.

Photos by Ro Sheffe.

Top: Elizabeth Ruelas

Bottom: Ed Roggenkamp, Quinn Warren, Elizabeth Ruelas

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From This Author Margaret Cross

MARGARET CROSS was born in Ohio, raised in Florida, and currently resides in New York City, where she is a singer and actress. She is (read more...)

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