BOTTOM LINE: An exciting, face-paced, very physical, one-man show.
I first fell in love with Ed Malone's manic narrative style last March when I had the pleasure of seeing his one-man show, an autobiographical tale called The Self Obsessed Tragedy of Ed Malone Chapter 2 (rumor has it, the production may resurface in the near future). It's easy to see why his latest work, Three Irish Widows vs. The Rest of the World was extended for the third time since it's original mount in August.
Malone, like a whirling dervish, bounces from one character to the next with precision and deftness. A man possessed, he embodies twenty-five different characters in seventy-five minutes. With magical storytelling, an abundance of energy and clear direction, Malone guides the audience on a journey through Ireland, Spain, The United States and India through the eyes of his mother Maura and aunts, Marguerite and Brita, the titular three Irish widows.
Malone paints a picture of the women's not-so-great lives in Ireland with their respective not-so-great husbands - two of them drunkards who enjoy good, Irish, burnt steak and the other an Englishman who, well...eats fish. (No, it's not dirty - he's simply prim and boring compared to the boorish boozers.) After a drunk-driving incident and two bouts with "the Big C," (cancer), the men meet in Heaven where they enjoy "the jar" at Christ, the local heavenly watering hole, while the three widowed women are left to reinvent themselves here on earth.
The ladies head to Spain where Malone's mother finds love and one of his aunts finds her libido. After Maura is proposed to by the "Karaoke King of Spain" she flees to the United States with her sisters upon learning that her son, Edward, has fallen off the wagon and into a Mexican prostitute. More madness, disappointment, and equivocal epiphany ensue as the women fight to rediscover themselves until an encounter with an Eastern guru gives them nothing and the widows go back from where they came...or at least we hope so.
It is not easy to embody upwards of two dozen characters but Malone does so clearly with the help of director Rob Welsh and with the aid of simple changes in lighting (by Annika Boras). Every character has a distinct physical posture, for example Marguerite is "the sexy one" so Malone dons an over-the-shoulder Marilyn Monroe pose every time Marguerite speaks. The audience also learns that when Malone turns around himself in a particular way that a scene is about to shift. More clarity is given through subtle light changes indicating heaven among other locations. Welsh does a great job creating distinct areas on the bare stage to represent everything from a pub, to a living room, to a massage parlor. He uses repetition as simple as a shift in gaze to indicate a change in mood or bringing him back to the same location on stage whenever the characters copulate. Welsh gives the audience a sense of safety and ease in this chaotic dark comedy.
The acting is superb and incredibly focused. Though at times the rapid-fire pace and sheer number of rotating characters can seem a bit frantic it may also be part of what makes Malone so mesmerizing to watch. I left the show with the overwhelming feeling that if Malone read the phone book on stage, I'd be intrigued.
(Three Irish Widows vs. The Rest of the World plays at Stage Left Studio Theater, 438 West 37th Street, between 9th & 10th Avenues, Suite 5A, NYC. The show has been extended September 7, 2010 through September 17, 2010. Running time is 75 minutes with no intermission. Tickets are $15, available at www.smarttix.com or 212-868-4444. Visit stageleftstudio.net for more info.)
Theasy Tip: The space at Stage Left Studios is intimate and quaint however, sitting is limited and if you are on the shorter side (such as myself) you may want to get there early and snag a chair up front or one of the barstool-style higher chairs in the back row.
(Producers Note: Stage Left Studio is tucked away on the FIFTH FLOOR of this beautiful old industrial building. Please note that we DO NOT HAVE A MARQUEE. But you'll recognize us by the white glass globe light fixtures. Simply buzz the button for Stage Left, listed in the building directory, and come up the elevator to the fifth floor and walk down the hall.)