By Nicky Silver; Directed by Stephen Kaliski
Produced in Association with The Strain Theatre Company
Off Off Broadway, Play Revival
Runs through 8.3.14
Teatro Circulo, 64 East 4th Street
by Sarah Moore on 7.23.14
Roger Manix and Lori Kee in Pterodactyls.
BOTTOM LINE: Nicky Silver’s dark comedy Pterodactyls is given a worthy revival that many will enjoy.
An overbearing mother leads a dysfunctional family and everyone seems to share the gift of acerbic wit? Must be a Nicky Silver play.
Pterodactyls is one of Silver’s earliest works (it premiered in 1993 at the Vineyard Theatre), and those familiar with his more recent work like Too Much Sun or The Lyons may be surprised by the absurdist nature of this play. His penchant absurdity has lessened in recent years, but the crackle of Nicky Silver's wit still shines through in Pterodactyls, which was his first major play in New York.
The prodigal son, Todd (Roger Manix), returns home to his family in the suburbs of Philadelphia to announce that he has AIDS. The mother, Grace (excellently played by Maggie Low), is addicted to alcohol and party planning, and can’t seem to decide whether she should plan a wedding (for her daughter) or a funeral for Todd.
The daughter, Emma (Lori Kee), has decided to get married to a homeless waiter, Tommy (Jeremiah Maestas) whom she has known for three weeks. It also bears mentioning that Emma suffers memory loss issues in addition to what seems to be hypochondria. The father’s there too, of course. Arthur (Dennis Gagomiros) is the president of a bank who insists on calling his son Buzz and consistently confuses his own memories and love of baseball for his children’s (they hate baseball).
With a backdrop of wedding planning, cross dressing (Grace hires Tommy as the maid and there’s a uniform involved), Todd finds gigantic dinosaur fossils in the back yard, and slowly puts them together in the middle of the living room. The dinosaur in the living room is a metaphor, but not one that hits you over the head. We’re all slowly headed for extinction.
Pterodactyls is a dark comedy, and as with all of Nicky Silver’s work, needs to have exactly the right actors to land the balance of laughter and pathos. This production doesn’t quite accomplish that, with Maggie Low and Lori Kee showing the strongest understanding of the text. However, the actors make a valiant effort and are overall well directed by Stephen Kaliski. Sometimes the pacing feels a little off, or the actors aren’t sure how to handle the absurdity in balance with the naturalism; the play moves quickly into dark territory and the actors must be there together. Granted, Nicky Silver isn’t an easy playwright to pull off.
Peri Grabin Leong designed the cozy and functional living room set, with the lights by Jessica Greenberg, and costumes by Marisa Kaugars. The designs are appealing and effective, though I found the multicolored disco lights used to be distracting and am not sure what they added to the aesthetic.
Pterodactyls is not produced often in New York and it is certainly worth a visit if you have never seen the play staged. This is a solid production and a must for any fan of Nicky Silver’s.
(Pterodactyls plays at Teatro Circulo, 64 East 4th Street, through August 3, 2014. Performances are Mondays and Thursdays at 7:30PM; Fridays and Saturdays at 8PM; and Sundays at 2PM. There is an added performance on August 2nd at 2PM. Tickets are $15-18 and are available at ovationtix or by calling 866-811-4111.)