Richard Ploetz’s Versailles is a raw glimpse into a true girl interrupted. Sharon, a single mother and pole dancer at The Golden Lady, will either drown from her excessive whiskey consumption, or in the swamp where she resides in North Florida. From the outset, the theater is pitch black, a clock begins to tick, and the audience is introduced to Sharon (Charise Greene) — eyes filled with tears and sitting Indian-style at the feet of an elderly gentleman, Mr. Mason (Charlie Moss). There are a few toys scattered in the corner, a hint that a child may also reside in the apartment. Confirmation arrives in the form of Bob (Eric Chase), a neighbor returning a stuffed animal forgotten from a play date with his daughter. Brandon (Drew Ledbetter), Sharon’s boyfriend and could-be father of her daughter, stumbles in the scene, slurring his words, interrupting their flirtation — asking, “where’s the kid?”
Bob later returns with his wife, Beth (Elizabeth Bell), who uncomfortably goes into a tale about an accident where she slipped and fell “down there” on top of a fire hydrant, as Sharon and Brandon have a full-on grope session mere inches away. Bob quickly shushes her. Sharon’s father, Harmon (Nick Ruggeri) drops by frequently to pick up his granddaughter, only to be told she’s at the babysitter. Ploetz and Director Ian Streicher proved they are wild boys by introducing Nick (Ron Bopst), the manager of The Golden Lady, during a sex scene with Sharon, where Nick experiences some shortcomings, but he’s damn proud of it.
Under Streicher’s direction, the play’s style is cinematic, darting from scene to scene; a bit difficult to follow during the initial introduction to the characters, but makes watching the seedy train wreck that is Sharon’s life so much better — a refection of the individuals who pop in and out of Sharon’s life, leaving just as quickly as they came. While Sharon’s the central character and the surrounding characters migrate to her, Ploetz creates stories for each individual, all of which are looking to escape Versailles Estates.
Brandon brings most of the wit, an auto mechanic and unintelligent Southern boy who only wants to love Sharon and her daughter, but can’t compete with the many men and options under Sharon’s belt. He’s actually smarter than he lets on, quickly catching wind to Sharon’s trysts with Bob and Nick, but still sticking by her, constantly mentioning marriage. After beginning his affair with Sharon, Bob becomes infatuated, visualizing Sharon while sleeping with Beth, referencing Sharon as a black hole. San alcoholic stripper to his sober, prudent wife.
When Beth meets Sharon, she was a recovering alcoholic, but when confronting Sharon about the affair between her and her husband, she’s confused about how nonchalant Sharon handles what should be shameful. Girl chat over a few drinks becomes a sexual experimentation between the two. Once a straight-laced, traditional housewife, Beth finds she can’t stop thinking of Sharon and wants to be her. From the way Bob talks to her, Beth has lost who she really is during their marriage and Sharon brings her to life.
Nick is a smooth talker, the only one who doesn't seem to love Sharon, but he’s the one she truly desires. He’s convinced her to dump Brandon, buy her apartment, and get rid of her daughter. The reality and irony — the only thing he wants and loves is The Golden Lady. Harmon, Sharon’s father, is accused and later admits that he molested Sharon when she was a little girl. As a result, Nick has become the quintessential father figure Sharon’s never had. In an effort to fix his wrongdoings, Harmon is trying to gain a relationship with Sharon’s daughter, but is it innocent?
Sharon and her father's friend, Mr. Mason, compete for her subconscious — Mr. Mason is Sharon’s reality. Sharon’s in love with being in love and being loved, and willing to give herself to anyone who will have her — anyone except her own daughter. Ploetz makes it clear Sharon loses track of her daughter; she’s always “at the babysitter’s,” wherever and whoever that may be. Mr. Mason allows Sharon to ask herself if being sexually abused by her father is the cause of her exquisite pain. When she’s willing to sleep with Mr. Mason, is Sharon seducing herself and opening up to her own psyche?
Versailles is sure to offer a few chuckles and definitely some gasps, but the intensity and realness of Sharon’s desperation opens a different type of emotion. There's also something to be said about a production that isn’t afraid of on-stage, awkward-sex scenes.
Versailles ran until March 9, 2014 at Theater for the New City (155 First Ave.).