An Interminable Wait

Anais Nin won't be the only one waiting around for what seems an eternity if you go to see this Fringe Festival play at the Connelly Theater in the East Village. Despite valiant efforts on the part of several actors, and good overall production value, Anais Nin Goes To Hell is ultimately bogged down by its script and its 2-hour long length. Part of the problem with the play is its ambition. The press materials state, "David Stallings’ new comedy... explores the question of whether Sartre was right and hell really is other people, or whether we carry around our potential for damnation or salvation within ourselves."

To this end, like Caryl Churchill's Top Girls , Stallings' puts Queen Victoria, Joan of Arc, Cleopatra, Heloise (a 12th century nun), and Grecian Princess Andromedea together on an purgatorial island, ostensibly to wait for all eternity for their men to arrive.

The endless wait is punctuated by the arrival on the island of 20th century erotica writer and psychoanalyst Anais Nin, and shortly thereafter, by Oscar Wilde's lover, Lord Alfred Douglas.

The result is a talky and touchy-feely existential play that traces topics like sex, feminism and "the love that dare not speak its name" over gaps of many centuries. While this is an interesting premise, it does not succeed in execution. There are only rare moments when the audience is brought to care about a character, as is the case with Joan of Arc (a talented Colleen Piquette).

The script, though heavy-handed in psychoanalytic mirror imagery, is not entirely devoid of humor. In particular, Madalyn McKay as Queen Victoria and Jeremy King as Lord Alfred Douglas help to buoy the show and move the plot along. Shelly Feldman delivers as solid turn as Anais Nin.

Anais Nin Goes to Hell is part of the 2008 New York International Fringe Festival.

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