By Margot Connolly; Directed by Alex Keegan
Part of the 2015 Frigid New York Festival
Off Off Broadway, New Play
Runs through 3.5.15
The Kraine Theater, 85 East 4th Street
by Shoshana Roberts on 3.2.15
Coral Smith in Keys.
BOTTOM LINE: A girl seeks guidance from Houdini in dealing with her father's death.
Thea (Coral Smith) is your everyday middle school gal. She is moody, stays home with a stomach ache, and puts on handcuffs. Let me rephrase. Thea is your semi-average tween. She is coping with her father's death, suffering from appendicitis, and is obsessed with Harry Houdini. Maybe she isn't so normal after all, but she sure does inspire an intriguing storyline for this endearing Frigid Festival play.
It is extremely difficult when anyone is admitted to a hospital, but even more so, in my opinion, when that person is a child. Thea mourns her deceased father and believes that her idol, the late magician Harry Houdini, can speak to him for her. Not only does her mom Beth (Holly Linneman) have trouble relating, but Beth's new boyfriend Steve (Dominik Eisenschmidt) is also in the picture. While complications from Thea's surgery threaten her life she speaks with Houdini (Sean O'Brein) in her mind. She is trapped in metaphorical and actual handcuffs. What to do when you don't have the key? Houdini says “My brain is the key that sets me free.”
Writer Margot Connolly demonstrates her grasp of characters in all walks of life. Her words for twelve year-old Thea seem natural while Houdini's strange spirit also evokes a genuine feel of interaction. Granted, I can't recall ever encountering a dead hero of mine in the crooks and crannies of my mind, but Connolly worked well with director Alex Keegan to concoct this sweet look into what might actually occur to someone in a dream.
(Keys plays at the Kraine Theater, 84 East 4th Street, through March 5, 2015. Remaining performance is Thursday 3/5 at 8:30PM. Tickets are $16; for tickets and more information visit horsetrade.info.)