"Snake in Fridge"

Theatre Review

The Themantics Group production “Snake in Fridge” is misnamed. Call it hungry home, or the lonely house, because we hardly glimpse the titular reptile and the twisted, noisy abode where most of the action in this sex, drugs, and anxiety-drenched story takes place ultimately becomes the most interesting character in a rather dull tale.

Like any number of predecessors, “Fridge” lays out the lives of six twenty-somethings living in that large Toronto home and attempting to navigate the waters of youthful hedonism and mature responsibility, and mostly failing.

“It’s not like I’m damaged,” one character says early on, and yet it seems all involved are just that in one way or another. The creaky old house, with its rhombus windows and angular doors and which one character repeatedly claims is haunted, is owned by Corbett, a closeted, drug-addicted, and self-consciously short young man who shoots steroids and pumps iron incessantly to compensate for his shortcomings, and his sister, Violet, an imperious, amoral careerist who lives elsewhere. Caddie, an angsty stripper, and her older, delicate sister Donna, who was sexually abused by their older brother years ago, spend their days in a muted tug-of-war for control of their relationship, while the studly Randy, who works for and sleeps with Violet, and his sweet girlfriend Stacy, who moves in with him early in the play, drift apart. Victor, a big, strong, and responsible black man, is Corbett’s best friend and apparently the only undamaged character here.

Stealing bits of “Less Than Zero,” “Rent,” and even “Reality Bites,” Brad Fraser’s story involves three main strands: Corbett’s drug habit and clubbing is catching up with him and he needs to take desperate measures to pay the rent; Violet offers Randy and Stacy $2,000 to be the first couple to have live sex on her new cyber-porn site, driving a wedge between the lovers; and Caddie grows increasingly upset and frustrated with her sister Donna’s flirtations and excursions with their new housemate, a gawky 40-ish man named Charles, who recently left his wife.

Although “Fridge” is directed with considerable energy by Blake Lawrence, with short scenes that pop up in one corner of the stage and melt away as the lighting moves to another spot, the story droops. The almost-youths enter and depart, grow upset and party, scream and screw, and progress predictably. The grungy slacker and gay club worlds seem dated, more out of 1990 than 2006, and the characters are mostly two-dimensional. A “Warning and Disclaimer” from the show’s promotional cards and emails proves accurate – the play does contain both male and female nudity, drug consumption, and even a couple of sex scenes – but rather unnecessary because it all feels tired rather than shocking.

The performances, too, are less than extraordinary, excepting those of Susan O’Connor (Donna) and Sean Baldwin (Charles). We watch with considerable interest as these two figures grow into themselves believably through the action, Donna from shy, almost-retarded waif to assertive, passionate young woman, and Charles from potential stalker to strong, protective lover.
Unfortunately, the action is not focused solely on them, and so we end up in the basement, with that little seen snake slithering somewhere in the shadows and Corbett tied to a pole after robbing and killing a drug dealer. “There’s no wrong when nothing makes sense anyway!” he argues to Victor. The angered house – shaking its disjointed windows and doors and sending residents scurrying with shouts for “More!” – would probably agree.

Snake in Fridge

By Brad Fraser; directed by Blake Lawrence; Sets by Jennifer Varbalow; costumes by Erin Murphy; lighting by Carrie Wood; sound by David Gilman; video design by Corey Behnke; production stage manager, Angela DeGregoria; production manager Beth Slepian; choreography by Tesha Buss; props by Sara Katzoff; dialect coach Kate Lavender. Presented by Jay Aubrey and the Themantics Group. At the Sol Goldman 14th Street Theater, 344 E. 14th St., Manhattan; 212/868-4444. Running Time: 2 hours 9 minutes.

With: Sarah K. Lippman (Caddie), Susan O’Connor (Donna), Angela Ai (Stacy), Christian Feliz (Travis), Matthew J. Nichols (Corbett), Sean Baldwin (Charles), Mimi Bilinski (Violet), and Gabriel Grilli (Randy).

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