By Lizzie Vieh
Reviewed by Robert Viagas
The craziness and desperation that often leaks out of broken marriages is bottled and served up in Lizzie Vieh’s new Off-Off-Broadway horror/comedy, Monsoon Season, which plays like a cross between Breaking Bad and The Last Five Years,
Not set in India, as the title suggests, but in Arizona, which sometimes endures similar catastrophic rains, Monsoon Season is the story of Danny and Julia, a married couple with a daughter. They crawl through a nightmare of anger and frustration that surrounds their post-separation lives, and finally decide to reconcile under some extreme circumstances.
And this is a comedy. A pretty funny one, too, thanks to way they are brought to sweating, shivering, slow-burning life by Richard Thieriot and Therese Plaen. They slowly build up heads of steam, and then give off little explosions left and right as it all gets too much for them. Plaen’s character has her micro-breakdowns as part of her wacky beauty vlog, “Sexy as Fuck,” and shares them with the world.
What sets Monsoon Season apart from other plays on this familiar subject, is the fact that the play’s reality is literally fractured just as the marriage is. The two actors never appear on stage together until the play’s final moments.
At first it seems like a monologue: Thieriot has the stage to himself for the first half of the play. We see how he tries to survive in a horrible apartment with a horrible job and subjected to constant humiliations by his wife, daughter, employer and customers, not to mention the legal system. We hear only his side. The audience is left to imagine the rest.
Then, suddenly, perspective shifts. Thieriot disappears and we see the whole thing from Plaen’s character’s point of view. We see her trying to rebuild her life while dealing with her age, with her sad sack ex, her confused child, her advertiser-ruled vlog, and especially with her sexy but dangerous new boyfriend.
Again, it’s a comedy. All the above are played for laughs…and, as the play goes on, with a growing departure from reality into a horror element built around creepy bird imagery. Which gives the two something to confront together and perversely seems to reawaken their mutual passion.
In one of the play’s best moments, Thieriot executes a desperate little flamenco, using two pairs of scissors as makeshift castanets. It’s funny, yet threatening.
On a tiny budget, the production relies on the sharp performances of its two actors, and on the imaginative and moody lighting by Sarah Johnson, that creates an atmosphere of building dread.
Directed by Kristen McCarthy Parker, All For One Theater’s Monsoon Season is playing a limited run through Nov. 23 at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater in the Greenwich Village section of Manhattan.