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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
THE GINGERBREAD HOUSE
at the Rattlestiick Playwrights Theater

SUCCESS AT ALL COSTS
By SANDY MACDONALD

  Jason Butler Harner and Sarah Paulson/Ph: Carol Rosegg

What could entice a cadre of A-list actors to perform in a semi-derelict,hole-in-the-wall theatre way, way off Broadway? In the case of the stageFARM production of The Gingerbread House, it's Mark Schultz's hilarious, blackly comic script.

Schultz doesn't pussyfoot around. He aims right for the unspeakable:child-trafficking, and not of the headline-grabbing, Law and Order SVU-inspiring sort, but a private initiative on the part of a yuppie couple who decide to default in the parental devotion department. Brian ( a shifty manipulative Jason Butler Harner) convinces Stacey (Sarah Paulson at her most pulsingly vulnerable) that it would be advantageous to sell off their kids. Their lackluster son and daughter aren't just disappointing , he insists, "They're killing us." The capper in his brief: "Weren't you prettier?"

Brian's alpha-male boss, Marco ( smooth-talking Bobby Cannavale) has volunteered to broker the sub-par offspring to a "sad couple" in Albania - and he hints that the transaction represents but the first in a manifest destiny of upward mobility leading to admission to "the club."

Despite a series of chipper letters -from- camp-type missives from the exiled Curtis (voiced by Charlie Kilgore), the tradeoff isn't optimal: soon he's alluding to "special happy drinks and funny massages." Meanwhile, the devilish Marco continues to up the ante in demanding his due.

A side plot in which Stacey, in her role as travel agent, tries to upsell an unhappy woman ( Jackie Hoffman) into a fantasy cruise isn't fully integrated, but any opportunity to see Hoffman kvetch is a welcome one. Also Paulson gives the entire tongue-in-cheek scenario her emotive all, at one point literally weeping buckets.

Amid all the satiric merriment, subtle possibilities emerge: for instance, that Schultz's cast-off children aren't to be taken literally, that they're stand-ins for the dispossessed of the world, over whom our dominant culture - in pursuit of success at all costs - rides roughshod. Shocking you into guilty laughter, Schultz makes you think. He has the makings of a major playwright.

 


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