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A CurtainUp Review
Everything You Touch
Even before the play begins, our eyes are fixed on the marvelously stark grey-on-grey setting by Francois-Pierre Couture in which sculptures of various body parts are resting in their respective cubicles on the walls. The fabrics and the collection are yet to be seen.
Victor's apparently latest attempt to be as self-servingly au courant as the industry will allow, or disallow pending the verdict, is about to be tested. He wonders whether he will be able to empower his un-wearable designs as well as surrender to the unyielding demons of his most perverse side. "I wanted the mainstream to catch on to my ideas. . .have them make their way to me on their own. Not yank them from their sofas and ram my designs down their gullets."
The play also follows Jess (Miriam Silverman), a frumpy, dumpy young woman with no self-esteem, for which she blames her dying estranged mother. Silverman makes self-deprecation an art form as Jess while Coulson is terrific as the ego-driven Victor. He may prove to be a demon, a redeemer or a contemporary Pygmalion when he miraculously, if incredulously, materializes to help Jess on her journey to self-esteem. Standing by, just in case, is Jess's nerdy high-tech co-worker Lewis (well played by Robbie Tan).
Fantasy and reality are not an uncommon dramatic mix, and Callaghan, whose plays have been produced and developed at many regional theaters, gingerly mixes and mashes these elements together without regard for our ability to ultimately make sense of what we are seeing or hearing. Poetic, stinging, and verbose ("Good God, this century bores me. I wish I was from the 16th Century. Rich Tudor. Breeches, doublets. Capes in the winter. Frilled silk blouses. Square-toed shoes with a fine cork sole. Clothes you can prance in."). The dialogue is also fueled by Victor's outpouring of vitriol and deployed with rage/But that's all to the good, so we prick up our ears as we don't want to miss a word. On the down side, Everything You Touch is also likely to confound and confuse those who want or like their plays neatly and compactly wrapped, as well as repel anyone unwilling to indulge in the artistic merits and pursuits of a serial sociopath.
A fashion show for the industry that is as stunning as it is surreal gets this play off to an extremely funny start. How can we not be amazed as well as amused by Victor's extravagantly satirical line of clothing that evokes a wild and wide spectrum of snarling, vicious, and poisonous creatures. Lest I don't give due recognition: the outré creations by Los Angeles-based designer Jenny Foldenauer are amazing evocations of the animal world (eat your heart out Julie Taymor.)
As worn, or more precisely occupied, by three beautiful, tall, very thin but delightfully animated models (Allegra Rose Edwards, Chelsea Nicolle Fryer, Nina Ordman), the designs are meant to reflect Victor's disassociation and disdain for people. The models, one of whom is destined early on to be a tragic victim of Victor's willful viciousness, return regularly as very amusing inanimate objects.
Totally self-absorbed, Victor has no qualms or misgivings giving the walking papers to the unsuspecting Esme (Tonya Glanz) his accommodating and coldly sexy, long-time muse. Why? Because he is suddenly smitten by Louella (Lisa Kitchens) a home-spun and unspoiled Southern belle contest winner of a fashion make-over who, shades of All About Eve may become Victor's next muse and the inspiration for a more practical fashion line?
Under Jessica Kubzansky's frisky direction, all the players are adept at careening between the superficial and existential worlds. Everything You Touch had its world premiere last April at The Theatre @ Boston Court and Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, in Pasadena, California. It now only needs the real world to appreciate and applaud its considerable originality.