Echoes of playwright Richard Foreman's sensibilities ring through Richard Fulco's Get Out of Jail Free , but it's to be expected. With two former Ontological Hysteric Theater (Foreman's theater) alum (actress Sarah Politis as Chorus and director Anthony Cerrato) on board and Fulco's abstract material, it is easy to see the relationship. As former stage manager and assistant director to Foreman, Cerrato creates histrionics that are in his mentor's fantastical vein, but unfortunately does not demonstrate Foreman's panache with the existential. Somewhere in a distant realm, a totalitarian government has declared love and its associate emotions, such as lust and passion, to be illegal. Toiling in this society is a young couple, Buttock (Matt Cosper) and Half-Way (Jessie Paddock), who dare not touch and dare not desire for fear of incarceration. They rant and rave, and yearn, without admission of course, for an illustrious Get Out of Jail Free card that will allow them to love and have sex with a pardon. Keeping close watch on their interactions is Agent 3931254 (Sara Kamin), a federal bulldog in bondage gear that the promotional for the show says is striving for a promotion with the couple's arrest. There are two things wrong with this preview. Firstly, Kamin has created a character with a propensity for violence and torture, and this ambition, although mentioned briefly in dialog, is never at the forefront because her glee with inflicting pain supersedes it. Secondly, the reason why the arrest of this particular couple will win her a promotion is never qualified. Of course, the lack of substantiation could be chalked up to the fact that this play does not follow a linear, narrative thread, but because there are dueling conceptual and material elements, the lack of consistency and focus is brought to the surface.
The characters are very talkative and energetic, but everything they say and do enters the realm of the nonsensical. Unlike Foreman's work, there is very little intellectual meat to chew on here, but Fulco seems to be wrestling with the uniqueness of love in that it's the only yearning that can satisfy itself. For example, food satisfies hunger, sleep satisfies fatigue, but only love satisfies the need for love. Of course, this is one of the many declarations that are flung into the air, but it is the one that bears the most weight. The play also concedes that the removal of emotion from actions that are sexual in nature is impossible, which could be construed as support for the love-satisfies-love thesis.
None of the actors distinguish themselves because they all operate at the same frenzied tempo. There is no contrasting, straight character, and as a result, Cerrato has created a frigid vacuum. As the chorus, Sarah Politis and Ian Campbell Dunn are amusing because they are not anchored to anything, but they only contribute to the artless chaos. There are overused catch phrases, pop and classical literature references, and even a shout-out to Saturday Night Live's Sally O'Malley character. Unfortunately, none of it creates a fantasy that should be endured for more than fifteen minutes.
Visually, Kaitlyn Mulligan's set is a wonderful playground setting meant only for adults. She creates pieces that look like torture contraptions out of pieces that are meant for childhood revelry. Apart from the set, the costumes by Annie Simon are busy and mismatched, but perfect for this anarchic world.
Despite the relentless movement, I couldn't help but think that Get Out of Jail Free would work best as a radio drama because of its kooky sound effects and amplified drama. And if this is what a loveless world would look like, let us all beg Congress for its preservation.
Note: This production is a part of the 2007 NYC International Fringe Festival.