Amy Patrice Golden is a luminous and immensely talented actress. Her look is a distinct – not to mention distinguished – combination of both Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett and erstwhile adult actress Traci Lords, which is appropriate; Golden possesses a deep reservoir of talent with just a hint of a naughty side. This makes Golden perfectly cast as Pink, the narrator and subject of Kristen Kosmas’ The Scandal!, a fascinating look at depression, suicide, and small-town life presented by the Horse Trade Theater Group and The Management in the East Village’s Red Room. Director Courtney Sale guides this show as a smart and stirring character study with a winning combination of humor and pathos.
Pink’s world is essentially a cocoon, in which she knows little about herself and even less about others. Her friends are not necessarily the best influences on her decisions. Her mother is aloof and judgmental, choosing to ignore the absence of Pink’s father, who has killed himself. His specter continues to haunt Pink, who treads around the darker edges of life.
Pink explains fairly early in this one-woman show that she has designs to drown herself at the age of 33 by weighing herself down with rocks in the river, Virginia Woolf-style. However, even the best-laid, most maudlin plans go awry. The scandal of the title is an entirely different event altogether.
Golden spends Scandal! accounting for what led to the event Pink describes. She meets Radio, a mysterious stranger. Her attraction to him leads to a complicated relationship that forces Pink to re-evaluate her beliefs about herself and her dealings with others. The thoughts that the character weighs may be dark, but her account is certainly illuminating.
It is unclear whether it was a choice on the part of Kosmas, Golden, or Sale, but Golden cleverly refrains from mimicking the different vocal styles of each character she portrays. While this choice is occasionally confusing (it can be hard to remember who is who), it turns Scandal into something more than the typical one-actor show. Golden isn’t playing multiple characters; she instead plays Pink, and all other characters the audience sees are played as Pink’s interpretation of them, filtering them through her own limited subjective sensibilities.
Take, for example, when Pink encounters Radio. Instead of merely recounting their conversation, she repeats their dialogue for the audience. Then, Pink summarizes the encounter with her own skewed recollection of events, allowing audience members to observe both the gross and the net capture of the encounter. Strokes like this are not difficult to create, and yet they add an enormous amount of character dimension to the play.
Golden masters these transitions brilliantly, etching in those character dimensions. Her performance is not only heartfelt, it is also extremely well-disciplined, navigating Kosmas’ shifts in events and tone carefully. She holds the audience in her thrall with a tautly focused performance. And her delivery is pure poetry; I only wish that her perfect cadences were not always drowned out by Jennifer Hudson, The Cars and the other musical artists being blasted by the KGB Bar directly beneath the Red Room.
Nonetheless, Golden gives a performance to remember in Scandal. Contrary to its own name, Kosmas has fashioned a play that should be remembered not for anything sensational, but for its substance. It is a careful, soulful journey through one woman’s mind with a star who proves that any choice of hers, even silence, can be Golden.