By Elle Anhorn; Directed by Francesca Di Cesare
Produced by Spicy Witch Productions
Off Off Broadway, New Adaptation
Runs through 9.26.15
The Clemente, 107 Suffolk Street
by Sarah Weber on 9.24.15
Kat Murphy, Katie Fanning, and Amanda Sophia Ebert in The C*nt. Photo by Jessica Briggs.
BOTTOM LINE: A thoughtful comedy about love, sex, and bending the rules that govern both.
This fall Spicy Witch Productions is pairing their production of The Country Wife with Elle Anhorn’s adaptation, The C*nt. In this reimagining of William Wycherley’s restoration comedy, Anhorn explores modern dating conventions and just how much they have (or haven’t) changed over time. Along with a sprinkling of burlesque and sex positivity, The C*nt places a mirror for the audience that both celebrates and pokes fun at our modern social mores.
Set in the ever trendy Brooklyn, Anhorn’s clever adaptation follows multiple love triangles. The principle relationship revolves around Henna (Amanda Sophia Ebert) and her plot to seduce the bubbly and (seemingly) naïve Maggie (Katie Fanning). Henna’s romantic conquests mostly involve pursuing straight(ish) women in steady relationships, all under the premise that she is the conduit through which these women explore their closeted bi-curiousness. So, when Maggie and her friend Allie (Kristin Guerin) arrive at Henna’s apartment building to visit their boyrfriends, Henna amps up her sultry wit and claims Maggie as her new pursuit. However, Maggie’s boyfriend Bud (Tim Haber), an insecure control-freak constantly paranoid Maggie will fall for another man, throws a wrench into the affair when he realizes Henna's intentions.
Meanwhile, Henna’s friend Stark (Zach Libresco) falls head-over-heels for Allie. Despite both the mutual attraction and the sweet folk song Stark sings to her, Allie remains in love with her boyfriend Frankie (Isaac Allen Miller)—he’s not exactly the smartest man around, but his unwavering trust in Allie makes for a much healthier and long lasting relationship than Bud and Maggie’s.
All the while these stories are presented and crafted by Darla Dandelion (Kat Murphy), Henna’s roommate and a rising burlesque performer. Spoken mostly in poetic verse, Darla provides far more than just the sequence of events; she reminds the audience how these characters fit within a larger conversation about women and sexual freedom in the 21st century.
Brought to life by a delightful cast, Anhorn’s characters maintain a thoughtful balance between funny caricatures and uncanny reflections of ourselves. Haber’s attention to detail over Bud’s jealous antics make laughing at Bud so easy. Yet, we all know at least one person who behaves just like Bud, and by the end of the show Haber turns this character from laughable to frightening. Ebert and Fanning’s performances are equally genuine. In watching their characters learn about each other we are invited to see how they learn about themselves. Henna embraces her single life, but Ebert delicately reveals Henna’s doubts—will seducing one bi-curious woman after another sustain her? Is she actually satisfied with one night stands? As for Maggie, though she’s aware that cheating on Bud is not the best way to tell him she’s unsatisfied in the relationship, Fanning’s warmth on stage makes it nearly impossible to judge Maggie’s excitement over finally being able to make her own choices.
Also notable is Francesca Di Cesare’s seamless direction. Every move in the piece contributes to the story and characters without feeling staged or contrived. Sometimes narrators in plays feel so separate from the show they’re almost an interruption—here, however, Di Cesare incorporates Darla so well that Murphy’s already enthralling performance somehow becomes more entertaining.
All in all The C*nt is an exciting adaptation that stands very well on its own. However, you do benefit from seeing The Country Wife as well to have a full understanding of the show’s context. I wasn’t sure at times if certain lines were purely a reference to William Wycherley’s original text. Later in The C*nt Allie confides in Maggie that she and Frankie have an open relationship. Though this is both a thoughtful reference to Wycherley’s original text and contributes to the show’s themes on sex positivity, the all-too-sudden reveal makes little sense within the context of the story; it almost feels contradictory to an earlier argument between the couple.
That said, Anhorn’s adaptation is wildly imaginative. She has bestowed upon us a fresh and contemporary reflection on modern relationships. Paired with The Country Wife, both shows offer a delightful array of feminism, gender fluidity, and comedy for audiences to sink their teeth into.
(The C*nt plays at The Clemente at 107 Suffolk St through September 26, 2015. Remaining performances are September 24th and 26th at 8PM Tickets are $20, and passes to both The C*nt and The Country Wife are $30. Tickets are available at spicywitchproductions.com.)