BOTTOM LINE: You don't know what you're missing
The Access Theater Gallery Space is an ideal venue. Large and spacious with high ceilings and hardwood floors, it was built to house and display beautiful things. On exhibition until May 17th is Flux Theatre Ensemble's piece of graceful artistry, Adam Szymkowicz's Pretty Theft. Like the pink-ribboned ballerinas who bow and bounce about the boards, Szymkowicz's fluidly spun saga sashays seamlessly from one scene to the next. Pretty Theft plays like a fairy tale, with equal parts shiny sparkle and grotesque grit.
Allegra, a troubled teen emotionally estranged from her family and alienated by her peers, befriends a young man suffering from autism in a care center at which she works. When patient to caregiver boundaries are exceeded, Allegra and bratty gal pal Suzy steal a car and drive cross-country only to detour and find themselves in a situation too sticky to slip through.
To describe Szymkowicz's writing as pretty would be a disservice. Pretty Theft is a stunning piece of story-telling. Fanciful and frightening, smart and straight-forward, provocative, but not pretentious, Pretty Theft discusses the definitions of beauty, truth and morality and the conditions attached to humanity's delineation between right and wrong. Indeed, Pretty Theft asks more questions than it answers and as Allegra's story unfolds, the proverbial line drawn in the sand distorts and fades under the influence of the elements.
Flux Theatre Ensemble has a skillful eye for spotting young talent. As Allegra, Marnie Schulenburg, poised in pink and ponytail, breaks the audience's collective heart with her soulful sincerity. Equally compelling is Maria Portman Kelly as Suzy, whose pouty, mean-girl petulance does not overwhelm her affability as an actress. Todd D'Amour adds an unusual charm to Marco, stippling his malevolence with attractive mystery.
The enemies of this production of Pretty Theft are the direction and staging. Scene transitions appear messy despite set designer Heather Cohn's efforts to make each set piece movable and user friendly. The clunkiness of the transitions seem to erode the actors' confidence as the play continues and often diminishes focus. Additionally, Angela Astle's direction at times becomes a little too clever for its own good. From the orchestral accompaniment to the ballet "The Sleeping Beauty" playing as ballerinas practice at the barre to the exhaustive use of a distorted mirror as tools to achieve depth through symbolism, it appears as if Astle lacks faith in her audience to "get it" and trust in Szymkowicz's ability to clearly relay his play's message. In both instances, she is mistaken.
(Flux Theatre Ensemble's Pretty Theft by Adam Szymkowicz runs through May 17th at the Access Theater Gallery Space, 380 Broadway at White Street, 4th floor. Performances are Thrusday through Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 7pm. Tickets are $18 and are available online at fluxtheatre.org.)
Photo is Candice Holdorf and Todd D'Amour. Photo by Isaiah Tanenbaum.