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|A CurtainUp Review
The Trail Of Her Inner Thigh
El Camino de su Entreplerna
The trail that led to the current Off-Broadway presentation of Erin Cressida Wilson's The Trail of Her Inner Thigh began with a commission at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, followed by workshops at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles and the Camp Santo company in San Francisco. The LAByrinth Theater company, whose gritty Jesus Hopped the A Train will long be remembered by all who saw it (at LAByrinth or during its extended run at Classic Stage -- see link below), seems the perfect home for the play's visit to New York.
Ms. Wilson's sexy, sad and often hilariously funny play is essentially a simple story about the powerful demands of family ties, as told through the search of a man for the daughter he fathered at fifteen The yearning of that man, Kasper (Johnny Sánchez) and his young daughter, Jolene (Jennifer Hall) to connect contains elements of Greek myth as summed up by the girl's plaintive "Got milky white skin on my things and anytime I'm lonely, I put my hand on my thigh and break into tears. I pretend it's my father's hand touching my Mama's thigh." That reference to the title also epitomizes the play's playwright's penchant for interweaving contemporary and lyrical language, the sexual with the spiritual. This lyricism, while at times bordering on pretentiousness and excess, has been harnessed by director John Gould Rubin into a fast-paced and imaginative staging. The occasionally overlapping Spanish and English dialogue is much like a musical accompaniment and requires no bi-lingual capabilities for full comprehension.
Johnny Sánchez convincingly portrays the play's central and only male character, Kasper, both as a 15-year-old Chicano boy and a 30-year-old man. Kasper segues between the present and the long ago time in the California mission district where he grew up and was seduced by Patricia (Laura Hughes), a junky twice his age. Their meeting on a bus illustrate Ms. Wilsons ability to write down to earth, downright funny dialogue: To Patricia's "what are you reading" Kasper replies "Geometry, nothing" and in response to her "Oh. . .you're reading geometry?" he comes back with "I like non-fiction." By the time Jolene is born, Patricia is far away from California. However, she never forgets Kasper who she refers to at one point as "her friendly ghost" who was like an angel with whom she "immaculately conceived." In an example of the author's occasional indulgence in overblown imagery she declares that she always thought of this miracle baby as "a beautiful shell that I had sculpted with the teeth and gentle knives of my womb."br>
Leaving behind his sick mother Maria (Gina Maria Paoli), who also yearns to hold his child in her arms, Kasper wends his way across the American Southwest in search of Jolene who is now , the same age as he was when she was conceived. Though her mother has rehabilitated herself through a methadone program and become the proprietor of a beauty parlor, Jolene feels incomplete. Jennifer Hall gives a vivid, energetic performance as the freckle-faced teenager whose erotic yearnings for her father (and his for her) are likely to redden the cheeks of the more staid members of the audience.
A third woman in Kasper's life is Kymmie (Quincy Tyler Bernstine), a prostitute and good fairy of sorts whom he meets during his fantastical journey. Like Kasper and Jolene and Patricia, Kymmie is a displaced person from that place of belonging known as home. Bernstine almost steals the show as the heart-of-gold hooker and is also excellent as two minor characters -- Jolene's best friend Bunny and a customer in Patricia's beauty shop.
Though Ms. Wilson's script calls for a very bare bones set it lends itself to some dynamic variations of a scenic design built with just a few chairs. These possibilities have been fully exploited by Mr. Rubin and his design team -- a central area of wood with a curved back wall on which to occasionally project video images is flanked by two platforms from which the characters move from one part of the country to another. During the colorful opening, for example, the stage right platform has all the women -- yes, even Kaspar's stately mother -- doing a bump and grind routine. Whenever Kaspar mentions of one of the three women the spotlight rests on the one whose name he calls out. Later, when Priscilla declares that it time to invite Kaspar to dinner, the makings of that dinner amusingly pop up as video projections and towards the end, a board in the center panel slides back for a dip by Jolene and Maria to dip into the waters of an ancient spring.
Stripped to its bare plot outline, The Trail of Her Inner Thigh, could easily be a TV movie of the week. Thanks to this powerful production, and the text's blend of humor and heartache, it is exactly the sort of live and lively performance piece we've come to expect from the adventurous LABrynth and the artists it supports.
Jesus Hopped the A Train