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Friday, August 28, 2009

Review- The K of D, an urban legend (FringeNYC)

The Fab Marquee review by Karen Tortora-Lee.

The K of D, an urban legend (written by Laura Schellhardt) starts off the way it should, with the lines "I got one! I got one!"  Because really, haven't we all "got one"?  An urban legend of some sort that we swear is true?  Even I have one, but of course it comes by way of my mother, who heard it from her friend, who said it happened to her husband, and while I completely believe that my mother's friend's husband had a strange worm living under his skin, the minute I tell just one other person it becomes the story that happened to "my friend's mother's friend's husband..." which is who it all happened to, so therefore it becomes completely unverifiable, and thus thoroughly unbelievable (although my mother swears that her friend swears it's true).  Just like the story of the puppy in Mexico who turned out to be a rat.  Just like the story of the ghost that haunted the set of Three Men and a Baby.  Just like the story of the girl who watched her brother die and kissed him on the lips and from that moment on couldn't kiss another thing without killing it.  And so starts the urban legend of Charlotte McGraw...

The K of D... Kiss of Death. What a terrible legacy to be left by the only person who understood you best in the world, in this case your twin brother.  Charlotte McGraw's twin dies violently... hit by a rusty car careening around the corner and not paying any mind to the skinny little boy on the skateboard who gets hit with such force that it's as if for one moment he's flying.  Legend has it (and of course, it was witnessed by "The Pack", but more about them later) that Charlotte saw the whole thing; and Charlotte, who had always had a strange connection to her brother, right down to the strange language of clicks and whirs and whistles they spoke in, ran to her brother, and held him in her arms as he died, and right as his soul left his body, Charlotte's brother kissed her, and that kiss gave her the power (or the curse?) to kill anything that she, in turn, kisses.  Is it true?  Well, now... that's how the legend goes at least.

This deftly woven story is told predominantly by "The Girl (who does most of the talking)" but the souls of each member of The Pack inhabit the small frame of the amazing Renata Friedman who manages to keep twelve distinct main characters alive and separate (along with several minor characters when necessary) without the use of props, wardrobe or even much grandstanding.  Instead, she relies purely on body language, accent, pitch and, of course, context.  Throughout the evening Ms. Friedman tells not only the story of strange, lonely Charlotte McGraw (who no longer speaks) and her uniquely odd grieving process, but she also gives us "Quisp Drucker" (who has the biggest mouth), Becky Ray Voss (who smokes bubblegum cigarettes), Steffi Post (who romanticizes violence), Brett Hoffman (who keeps track of the facts), Trent Hoffman (who keeps track of the people), Mrs. McGraw (who expected more), Mr. McGraw (who provided less), Jack Whistler (who tends the flowers), Johnny Whistler (who is the subject of much debate), and a host of Johnny's Girlfriends (who change often, and rarely wash their hair).  

While every so often (when "The Pack" is all together, let's say, and crowding to talk over one another) despite Ms. Friedman's extraordinary talent, it can be difficult to keep each character separate.  However, it almost doesn't matter, for when The Pack is together they're doing what a Pack does; egging each other on, and adding to each other's bravery, so it hardly matters if every now and again one character gets confused for another.  I daresay in real Packs of kids there's a tendency for one kid to get confused with another, especially if they're 1) related or 2) spending day in and day out with each other therefore all pulling from the same pool of experiences and influences.

What magically does happen takes place during the quieter moments of the play, when two (or even three or four) characters are together and Ms. Friedman moves so quickly that you can hardly believe you're watching just one woman; she can be the cause and the effect of a climactic scene so powerfully that there's almost no explanation for it. During a pivotal moment when Charlotte McGraw (who no longer speaks) confronts Johnny Whistler (who is the subject of much debate) in a shadowy (imagined) doorway that is only put in your mind by Ms. Friedman, and deepened by Robert Aguilar's lighting design and Matt Starritt's sound design you hold your breath in anticipation; in hope, in doubt; there is so much reality based on illusion in this play that the whole show is like the reflection of an urban legend itself... existing in your mind so deeply, so eerily, so forcefully, that you would swear it is there, until you notice that it's not.

Tremendous credit goes to director Braden Abraham who chose the way of simplicity; also responsible for the simple set design (nothing but a near-dilapidated dock with a tire hung from the post).  With such little else to pull your focus, there was no distraction from the wonderful script or the tremendous acting, and with no props, the sound design went a long way in creating this small town world.  When Charlotte catches a lightening bug in a jar, despite the fact that she has no jar in her hand, the sound alone of metal being slammed against glass perfectly recreated that eager moment we've all had as children (Did I get it?) and did more to carry the moment than any real jar would have done.

The K of D may be an urban legend, but this play is all real - and 100% true talent to the core.

The New York International Fringe Festival
Pistol Cat Productions present
The K of D, an urban legend
The Cherry Pit

Remaining Performances: Fri, Aug 28th @2:45pm and Sat, Aug 29th @5:15pm. For more information visit

The Cherry Pit | 155 Bank St | Manhattan

1 comment:

Renata said...

The K of D has been extended as part of the FringeNYC Encores Series! It'll be playing at the Soho Playhouse from 9/14 to 9/18. Showtimes at