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This review by Simon Saltzman was prepared for the May 25, 2005

issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Drama Review: ‘Ten Percent of Molly Snyder’

There is a nightmare lurking in every farce and the versa is visa.

That we all are potentially ripe for becoming unwitting victims of

bureaucratic red tape is dramatized with both humorous and horrifying

results in Richard Strand’s "Ten Percent of Molly Snyder," now having

its East Coast premiere at the New Jersey Repertory Company in Long

Branch. Having lost her wallet, Molly Snyder (Stephanie Dorian), a

visual artist, takes the first step to regaining her identity by

applying for a new driver’s license. When she notices that her address

has been incorrectly printed on her license, she makes a visit to the

DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) to set things right.

Of course, things go wrong right from the outset, as she is confronted

and ultimately confounded by a robotic employee (Michael Irvin

Pollard), whose impersonal dismissive by-the-book consideration of her

problem initiates a chain of events that lead Molly into bureaucratic

hell. Strand’s hardly original theme, while alluding to the darker

vision found in Kafka (without the politics) and the giddier elements

of a Neil Simon comedy, doesn’t build exponentially toward a

completely satisfying conclusion. Nevertheless, it builds on its

single exasperating situation with crafty intensity as Molly gets

hopelessly mired in a maze of forms and forces beyond her control from

which there is no exit (with no apologies to Sartre).

When Molly reads of her own death in the obituary section of her local

newspaper, she is told she had been given the wrong form to fill out.

She has been sent a certificate of death instead of her license. Not

being able to convince the newspaper editor to print a retraction or

to prove to the officer at the bank that she is who she says she is

the bank sells her home and belongings. And when the agent who has

suspiciously replaced her former agent refuses to recognize her as the

artist she claims to be, she kills him. This may be the first murder

committed with a broken picture frame. This act lands Molly on death

row and an attempt to get a pardon from the President of the United

States who can only help if she is willing to fill out some more

forms. Soon at the mercy of an executioner who… well, we’ll let you

discover the rest.

The comedy rests on the interplay between the increasing desperate and

despairing Molly and the succession of bureaucrats, all played by

Pollard with varying degrees of impervious condescension. Most of the

play’s dynamics, however, come from Dorian’s fevered and frenetic

performance as a woman whose clash with typically officious office

mentality begins when she is asked her name and she replies, "I am

many women and my art conveys the centrality of spirituality for the

human experience."

Previously produced at Steppenwolf’s Garage Theater, "Ten Percent"

could still be improved with some pruning despite its scant 75-minute

length. Much of Strand’s dialogue is funny and buoyed by the unnerving

realities of bureaucratic gobbledygook. It has been directed by

Suzanne Barabas with a keen sense of its comic potential as well as

the limitations set by the plot. The audience at the opening night

performance I attended laughed heartily. One running sight gag

concerns a reappearing painting that Molly recognizes as hers in every

sterile office she visits. Another one is an electric switch that

Molly notices on the corner of every desk that ultimately plays a role

in the play’s denouement. Molly’s growing awareness that all of the

office workers look alike regardless of their job or their gender

provides a touch of mystery.

But, as much as we can appreciate and recognize the purposely

insensitive and mechanical response of each of the bureaucrats to

Molly’s problem, we are still left wondering why Molly doesn’t seek

help from a lawyer – but that, I suppose, would be another play.

Jessica Park’s scenic design of a nondescript beige office includes a

window that amusingly changes its skyline to denote a change of venue.

Costumer Patricia E. Doherty has outfitted Dorian to validate her

artistic individualism. Other technical credits are in keeping with

the professional standards of the New Jersey Rep.

– Simon Saltzman

Ten Percent of Molly Snyder, May 19 through June 26, New Jersey Rep at

the Lumia Theater, 179 Broadway, Long Branch. $30. 732-229-3166 or

E-mail info@njrep.org.


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