by Dan Kitrosser · May 14, 2015
The relaxed pre-show atmosphere of Temerity Theatre’s production of Edmond Malin’s The Addicts has that same touch of communal awkwardness you might find at AA meetings around the city. At the production I saw at Theater for the New City, where audience members and actors alike lounge about in the cabaret space in the basement, the feeling was all too familiar. And like such meetings, where a group of strangers come together for a bit of catharsis and mediocre coffee, The Addicts shows the heightened messiness of life, offers glimpses into those characters usually not seen and offers no happy endings, just more questions. We start in what seems like a meeting for Addiction, with the company of actors serving as the attendees. When the late comer arrives to tell his story, the play suddenly begins and we are sent on a roller coaster ride of a story about sex and religion, international relations and fame, all inside one play. A far reaching work, if not always successful in tying these multiple themes and plotlines together, The Addicts takes us all over North America, into dream space and back in time, and shows a playwright in Malin unbridled with humor and depth along the way.
So very quickly--the plot! Zuckerman, a Jew for Jesus, tries to convert Isaac, a black Jew, though very quickly Isaac realizes that he and Zuckerman share a sexual history and the two fly off to Canada where Zuckerman has a speech to give. Isaac’s wife, Justine, a sexual renaissance woman is about to be fired by her boss, Merinda, when Merinda reveals it’s only because Justine hadn’t pursued her; Justine and Merinda begin their tawdry relationship. In Canada, two Portuguese bakers, Joao and his uncle, Sebastio, struggle with a plot to overthrow Canada. While at times it is hard to make sense of these very disparate journeys and the frame story of the addict meeting doesn’t seem to intertwine or support the central narrative, I found the play had a depth, aided by flashes into dreams which underscore a sense of desire which lurks underneath each character’s whims, and with worthy performances out of the earnest cast, in particular Wesli Spencer as Isaac, and Ross Shenkar in multiple roles (such as a foppish waiter and a gregarious talk show host), it makes for a thoroughly enjoyable evening at the theatre.
Malin has some wonderful lines that pop up throughout this piece--a favorite, “Oh, I see I’ve upset you. Let’s stick to unoffensive topics like religion”--and the wide scope of the playwright’s vision is worthy of attention. I am greatly looking forward to the next adventure Mr. Malin and his team at Temerity Theatre decide to take.