by Ed Malin · February 26, 2014
Playwrights on New Plays #49 Ed Malin shares his thoughts on East in Red, part of FRIGID new york East in Red by Ryan Sprague is the provocative, twisty story of a shady serial killer and his prey. Or is it?
When the action starts with Eddie the Super (Jonah Nathan) letting himself into Aaron’s (Patrick Andrew Jones) apartment, there is a sense of a hostile ruffian in a civilized space. Aaron is a hair stylist but is not gay, he says. Eddie believes the opposite, but Eddie is a long-term East Village, NYC resident and is suspicious of fancy people moving into his turf. Aaron is having a female guest over this evening. She is Marie (Emily Tuckman), a prostitute sent by an escort agency. Aaron and Marie discuss the spate of murders of prostitutes in the neighborhood. Aaron has very different theories than the tabloids—who call the perpetrator “The Ripper”—as to why the murders were committed. Aaron has life-long anger against women because of a grudge he holds against a high-school ex-girlfriend. The tables are turned on him, however, when he finds out that Marie and one of the other victims knew each other, and that Marie has brought an accomplice tonight to the too-quiet meeting.
This suspenseful play feeds off the notoriety of Jack the Ripper and The White Chapel Murders. Its depth lies in the face it puts on prostitutes, traditionally the victims who, since their stories are not told, are considered disposable. Emily Tuckman as Marie, who came to New York to be an actress, is complex and powerful, while Patrick Andrew Jones as Aaron is deceptively weak. The two bond over being misunderstood. In this tale, anyone can take a wrong turn and become set on revenge. Perhaps we all have these tendencies. Director Mike Backes has guided these characters through many convincing transformations, which makes for an entertaining and scary local theater event.