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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
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
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