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A Safe Place

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Back Stage West
Dany Margolies
September 18-24, 2003

Fred falls down a rabbit hole. He never once seems to consider how in the world he is to get out again. Fred's white rabbit, however, is a beautiful intelligent redhead, and he becomes entranced. She hosts a tea party - on this case a séance - with a few slightly peculiar friends. Language is everyone's drug of choice. And not until sometime in Act Two do we even step back to think: This is a play and these are actors.

Full marks to Henry Jaglom, who has penned a stunner here. Partly absurdist, partly a painful reflection of very human behavior, the play is a disconcerting puzzle from start to finish; only the ending provides some relief to our overheated minds. What is going on here? Must we even decide? One possibility: This is a fairy tale in its truest sense, teaching us a bit about our delusions when we try to find "a safe place."

Kim Furst directs with an astute sense of paradox and balance. She creates a disquieting feel while keeping us fascinated rather than causing us to presume bad direction. She punches a few key moments while not letting others lag. She lets her actors be simultaneously natural and heightened, and she has ensured that the actors reflect rich but slightly mysterious inner lives. Eric Meyersfield is Fred; from the moment he first spots the copper-tressed Noonie at a cafeteria he is lost to inexplicable love, which Meyersfield plays with insecurity and acceptance. Tanna Frederick is Noonie, part siren, part maiden, luring Fred with intangible magnetism and keeping him at bay with tangible purity. Frederick's luminous smile just won't fade, even as the actor reveals Noonie's wrenching pain; her lilting voice soothes Fred and the audience.

Gerry Katzman is powerful as the darker, more "manly" presence in her life. David Weisenberg is her adorably cheery buddy; Jorge Garcia is busy-haired, panic-prone chum; Stasha Surdyke brings a mystical, gypsy influence to the brief party scene, and Amandah Reyne is a charming Englishwoman who unwittingly ignites a power struggle for Noonie's affections. And just as Fred commits to the paradigm, it may have vanished.

When Fred falls down that rabbit hole, he takes us with him. And it's a quirky, provoking, at times mesmerizing journey.

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