By Mark Healy; Directed by Lisa Milinazzo
Produced by Nine Theatricals and Roebuck Theatrical
Off Off Broadway, Play
Runs through 11.13.16
59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street
by Adrienne Urbanski on 11.3.16
Matt De Rogatis and Jillian Geurts in The Collector. Photo by Michael Greenstein.
BOTTOM LINE: This stage adaptation of a John Fowles novel is thoroughly compelling and enthralling, as two gifted actors bring to life the tensions and psychological games running through the script.
For the American debut staging of The Collector, 59E59's Theater C, which only holds about fifty seats, provides the perfect showcase. The two immensely talented actors comprising the cast unleash the tense emotions of their characters into this small space, pulling the audience into the room with them as they battle in a war of the psyches.
Frederick (Matt De Rogatis) begins by pleading his case with the audience, trying to convince us that kidnapping Miranda (Jillian Geurts) does not in fact make him a bad person; all he ever wanted was to show her kindness and win her love. In a city highly divided by class, the socially awkward Frederick spends his days at a dull working class job when the privileged Miranda catches his attention. He uses slides to show us the many photos he has taken of Miranda in various locales, pointing out her beauty in each shot. Frederick explains to us that none of this would have been possible "were it not for the money." Having just won the lottery, Frederick finally has the chance to live the life of luxury he has always coveted. At first he collects butterflies, ensnaring the most beautiful ones and then killing them so that he might own their beauty forever. Realizing that this is not enough, he sets his sights on his most desired prize: Miranda.
After drugging her and forcing her into his tricked-out van, Frederick takes Miranda to a house in the country where he has created a room in the basement just for her. Having filled it with clothing and books he hopes she would like, he fools himself into perceiving this kidnapping as an act of kindness. At first Miranda is terrified, but eventually she and Frederick establish a trust due to his doting behavior, with her commenting on how safe he makes her feel when she is finally permitted to use his upstairs shower. This trust disintegrates when Miranda questions his perpetual adoration, waiting for the day when he will rape and/or murder her. It is the not knowing that scares Miranda the most as she approaches each day wondering what will happen.
The strength is this piece comes from the actors who display intense, raw emotion in their characters, under the expert direction of Lisa Milinazzo. The tension and power dynamic between them is what makes this piece compelling, as these two yell and fight across the stage (skillfully choreographed by fight coordinator Greg Pragel). As Frederick, De Rogatis shows frightening coldness and flatness, displaying a man so out of touch with the world that he allows himself to be driven by his own deluded desires. The empty stare beneath his aviator glasses is what drives Miranda's fear, as she sees no recognition of her own pain. Geurts embodies Miranda's emotional roller coaster completely as she struggles to gain the upper hand, willing to do anything to free herself and return to the charmed life she was so cruelly ripped from.
Despite having a cast of just two, the actors' sheer talent allows them to paint a world together and create suspenseful characters. Having been written in 1963, the story does not venture into the sexually dark territories a modern day retelling might, and somehow this makes the suspense all the greater (and this sad tale easier to stomach than say, your average episode of Law & Order: SVU). Overall, The Collector is a riveting production that will have you at the edge of your seats.
(The Collector plays at 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street, through November 13, 2016. The running time is two and a half hours with an intermission. Performances are Tuesdays through Thursdays at 7:30, Fridays at 8:30, Saturdays at 2:30 and 8:30, and Sundays at 3:30. Tickets are $25 and are available at 59e59.org or by calling 212-279-4200.)
The Collector is by Mark Healy, based on a book by John Fowles. Directed by Lisa Milinazzo. Set Design is by Jessie Bonaventure. Lighting Design is by Steve Wolf. Sound Design is by Sean Hagerty. Fight Coordinator is Greg Pragel. Stage Manager is Gabriela Gowdie.
The cast is Jillian Geurts and Matt De Rogatis.