Despite being written and directed by women, Steph Del Rosso’s Fill Fill Fill Fill Fill Fill Fill [or Fill x 7], directed by Marina McClure, is a macho exploration of the female condition. The production at the Flea Theater’s Siggy space, named for Sigourney Weaver, kicks off with confidence, succeeding in creating a stadium-sized atmosphere in a substantially smaller area. The raunchy, adrenalin-infused performance that Roland Lane gives as Noah, an ego-bound pop star on his Break-Up tour, fuels the theater with pheromones. He charms his demure, unsuspecting photographer girlfriend, Joni, acutely performed by Sarah Chalfie, from backstage onto the stage, like a deer in the headlights, and proceeds to embarrass her, leaving her mortified and alone.
Joni: Why are we doing this here???
Noah: Because, I wanted it to feel special. Like an actual event.
For the rest of the play’s 85 minutes, Joni goes in search of herself, attempts to pick up the pieces of her life and fill the holes this emotional massacre has left in its wake. Cleverly titled for this premise, the play is conceptually profound but lacks depth in its execution, substituting juvenile and superficial humor for any real substance.
A series of ballistic ensemble vignettes follow, and they keep the production’s momentum swift. Symbolic props and quick costume changes support the appearance of an array of urban prophets who come out to play: therapists, healers, baristas and bartenders (costumes by Kate Fry) take pot shots at Joni’s vulnerable heart and soul, which keeps her spinning in a downward spiral of self-loathing and confusion. Searching for Noah’s “replacement,” Joni encounters Todd (Ben Schrager), a waiter who assures her that he will be “taking care of her.” Her misinterpretation of his intent, and their banter of one-liners, which takes them through an entire relationship before her appetizer arrives, says much about our culture’s desperate need for instant gratification.
Todd: Can I buy you a drink?
Joni: Can I buy you dinner?
Todd: Can I make you dinner?
Joni: Can we fight efficiently?
Todd: Can we apologize maturely?
Joni: Can we build a fort?
Todd: Build a future?
Joni: Are we dating?
Todd: I think so!
Joni: Are we madly in love?
Todd: I think so!
Joni: I don’t think this is going to work. You said you were going to take care of me.
Todd: That’s just from the employee handbook.
Joni is persuaded into a threesome by a couple of swingers, Lisa (Valeria A. Avina) and Ray (Joseph Huffman), and it seems like that might be the turning point, the depths from which she can begin to look up and find some light, but the charades continue to mushroom in the dark when Joni and her friend Kate (Monique St. Cyr), in a fit of nonsensical rage, deface Joni’s award-winning photograph with what looks like Vaseline, smudging out what’s left of her dignity.
Kate’s engagement announcement to Doug (a Hollywood television producer) and then Joni’s appearance on Doug’s new show, The Perfect Woman, puts a pathetic Joni in the spotlight, pitting her against the worst kind of clichéd submissive, subjugated, catfighting female contestants, the male contestants rooting them on in moronic fashion. Joni’s attempt to be true to herself, her portrayal of a real woman against these TV babes, is the production’s continuing pursuit of truth in a hard and callous world. “Isn’t everything difficult worth pursuing?” is a line that is repeated several times for emphasis, and perhaps the playwright’s mantra.
The play’s structure is ambitious, and the production seems to be striving for the characters to achieve more than they are able, the effect of which is that they are stretched out of any real proportion. The appearance of the Young Joni (Maggie McCaffery) provides the production with a single ray of sunshine in a sad and dark world. That Joni is left unsure and unresolved makes a mockery of what the human spirit is capable of under these circumstances. Perhaps that is what they were aiming for. Ultimately, the attempt of Fill x 7 to fill holes remains unfulfilled.
The world premiere of Fill Fill Fill Fill Fill Fill Fill runs through Feb. 25 at The Flea Theater (20 Thomas St. New York, NY 10007). Evening performances are at 7 p.m. on Mondays and Thursday through Saturday; matinees are at 3 p.m. on Sunday. For tickets and information call OvationTix at (866) 811-4111 or visit theflea.org.