The Impostor

By J. Dakota Powell
Directed by John David Coles
Produced by Alice's Fourth Floor
Workhouse Theatre
Equity showcase (closed)
Review by Adrienne Onofri

The Impostor marks the swan song of its producer, Alice's Fourth Floor, a developmental theater company that will shut down after the show closes. In its five years of existence, Alice's has given over 300 new American plays either workshop or mainstage productions. But it is now saddled with $35,000 in debts, and Artistic Director Susann Brinkley says she is itching to work in "more commercial venues." The company exits with a solid production of an unsettling play, peopled by a number of Alice's Fourth Floor regulars including Austin Pendleton, Calista Flockhart, Katherine Leask, and Melinda Wade.

The Impostor opens at a Thanksgiving dinner attended by a group of yuppie literati so pretentiously intellectual and smugly hip they would never imagine they'd soon be thrust into a seamy incident. But on the way home from dinner, one of the guests rapes another.

Pendleton played Eric, a 55-year-old famous writer whose career is faltering. He gives a ride to Sidra, his editor's 24-year-old sister-in-law. When they stop at the beach where Sidra spent her childhood summers, she reminisces giddily and flirts and he unexpectedly turns violent.

The myriad scenes in The Impostor switch back and forth between Thanksgiving dinner, the ride home, and various locales in the weeks following the assault. This unconventional structure helps sustain interest better than the scenes themselves do since the five other characters ultimately do not contribute much to the story. The two couples with whom Eric and Sidra had dined are split male vs. female by the rape, with the wives outraged and the husbands contending it must have been a misunderstanding.

All the bickering, debating and negotiating between the characters, however, do not add anything new to the dialogue about rape. The only meaningful scenes prove to be those focusing on Sidra's anguish and eventual re-confrontation with Eric. They constitute a trenchant, heart-rending expose of a rape victim's trauma, stunningly acted by Flockhart. But the play lacks an equally thorough probe into the mind of the rapist. The intense final scene indicates that jealousy of Sidra's youth and promise drove Eric to assault her--which suggests the harrowing notion that all men, if they're agitated about something, are potential rapists.

Outstanding performances by Pendleton and Flockhart offset the weak secondary characters. Technical aspects of the production were also excellent, with lighting and sound effects substituting effectively for scenery changes as the action alternated among several settings.

(Also featuring Clark Gregg, Richard Bekins, and Matthew Weiss. Set Design, Rob Odorisio; Lighting, Michael Gottlieb; Sound, Jessica Burrow; Costumes, Kim Krumm Sorenson.)

Box Score:
Writing 1
Directing 1
Acting 2
Set 1
Costumes 1
Lighting/Sound 2
Copyright 1996 Adrienne Onofri
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