by Joan Kane · December 29, 2013
Indie Artists on New Plays #33: Joan Kane looks at Darkling & Hip two solo shows playing at IRT Nora Woolley and Kim Katzberg are resident artists at IRT. Their two solo shows, Darkling & Hip, are performing in the 38 Development Series. Each show explores how difficult it is to navigate the dangerous waters of almost adulthood in 21st century America where everyone is seeking recognition.
Hip is written and performed by Nora Woolley. She portrays three different women and a recent college graduate, hipster male musician. Hip opens with the musician, Wythe, graduating from college. Most of the characters are named after streets in Williamsburg. I thought that was an apt touch. The women Wythe meets are, like him, striving for recognition. Every character is played by Woolley, and she uses voice-over effects of her voice and video of her image to help create interactions between characters in each scene.
Wythe is a recent graduate of NYU with a degree in music. Convinced that Julian, the leader of a competing band, has stolen his song, Wythe confronts him. No satisfaction is had and he goes on his way. Video images of Wythe running through the graffiti marked streets of Williamsburg, Brooklyn segues into a phone scene between Wythe and his grandmother Gloria. Grandma is old, neglected, has a broken foot, is addicted to pain killers and strives for attention. He managers to get a promise from Granny that she will lend him some money to make a recording of his songs. Still desperate for money, Wythe takes a job as a baby sitter for a high-energy, over-active child named Roebling. Roebling’s mother, an art photographer is overwhelmed and under supported while trying to juggle work and child-care for her special needs child. She collapses onto the floor in a puddle of self-pity screaming loudly at Wythe as he walks away, “What about my special needs?” Wythe gets kicked out of his apartment and we find him hunting for an apartment in Williamsburg not far from the L train. In an interview with a Polish landlady, he is told to give up his love of music and make money. She tells him to “Be who you are, not who you want to be.”
The post college years are a treacherous time for anyone and especially so in the current economy. Woolley uses humor and well-defined characters to impart just how dangerous these waters can be for the graduate who chooses to express their art instead of trying to do something to make money. Directed by Raquel Cion, Woolley is convincing as she transforms into each character in seamless transitions. I look forward to author Woolley developing this story and exploring the topics presented in a longer script with a less abrupt ending.
In Hip Woolley is commenting on the current situation for young adults. In Darkling Katzberg is telling the raw, and personal stories of two sisters on the edge of adulthood and their relationships to men.
Darkling is brilliantly written and performed by Kim Katzberg. She presents Trinity and Morgan, two sisters who reject their affluent suburban lives. The action flashes back and forth between them. Video clips are used effectively to set the locale of each scene. Katzberg plays all the characters and embodies the psyche and physical movements of the teenage girls with the expertise of a seasoned performer.
Trinity is a high school girl obsessed with three things: Goth style, losing her virginity and Morgan, her troubled older sister. It is 1987 and Trinity’s sister has been sent to the Rocky Mountain Academy for “bad” children located in an isolated section of Utah. Their mom can not cope with trying to raise children in an affluent suburban world.
Trinity is determined to lose her virginity. In a brutal, non-violent scene in the front seat of a car she attains her goal. The experience does not match her fantasized expectations. She gets depressed and stays in bed for three weeks, refusing to deal with her friends and family. Finally she leaves her bed and tries to reunite with her sister. In a phone conversation Morgan tells Trinity, “Do not let suburbia suck you dry, go downtown and put a blue streak in your hair.” We switch to Morgan who gets gang raped at the school. The head mistress puts Morgan in isolation for two weeks but the boys get two days of restricted privileges. This injustice leads her to run away. Eventually Morgan becomes addicted to drugs and is sexually used by older men. Finally Trinity meets her older sister who is now a full-blown doper rattling on about the current boy friend in her life. Morgan lives for men and their approval, and is unable to take care of herself because she has no education or any skills. Trinity explains to Morgan, “Maybe we gave too much power to men.”
The story Katzberg is telling is raw, relevant and powerful.
Directed with a firm hand by Raquel Cion, Katzberg’s performance of her characters is deep and solid.
I recommend seeing Darkling & Hip for the experience of two brilliant performances by Nora Woolley and Kim Katzberg.