This review of Nick Robideau's Inanimate at The Flea Theater was written by Christopher M. Struck and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!
Written by Nick Robideau
Directed by Courtney Ulrich
Scene Design by Yu-Hsuan Chen
Costume Design by Sarah Lawrence
Lighting Design by Becky Heisler McCarthy
Sound Design by Megan Culley
Production Stage Managed by Gina Solebello
The Flea Theater
20 Thomas Street
New York, New York 10007
This play aimed true in almost every facet. The dialogue was crisp; the set (scene, costume, lighting, and sound) design was on point; and the acting, phenomenal. Beyond that, Inanimate intrigued me with its oddities and left me wondering about the intricacies of the human mind. The main character, Erica, demonstrated a range of emotions including love and lust for inanimate objects. Lacy Allen shined in the lead role. Her eyes filled with sadness and desperation when confronted with the possible loss of these things she had become infatuated with. Yes, things! To us, we might view feelings toward material things as something akin to sentimental attachment, but apparently, this obsession with objects truly does exist.
It has been shown through psychological study that attachment to objects occurs normally at a very young age. Children prefer specific objects that have been given to them and are "theirs" over identical copies or replacements. While this can be considered a form of ownership, it does take on potentially new perspectives when viewed through the lens of this play. For example, Lacy's character, Erica, hears the voices of objects around her. While most of the lines are merely what the object is such as a fluffy bunny (Nancy Tatiana Quintana) calling herself "soft" or a lamp (Artem Kreimer) saying he "flickers and shines brighter," we could wonder that perhaps this object obsession is due to an actual "spirit of the object" such as an essence talking subliminally to us. Or perhaps her thoughts are merely constructions and hallucinations of normal emotional attachment to objects. Are the objects important because they have an actual voice, or because the objects are important for another reason - does a voice develop? So, in other words, does our sense of ownership come from an internal form of attachment unrelated metaphysically to the object in question or does the object itself also form an attachment to us?
Forming a conclusion on the reality or even the morality of those possibilities aside, I thought this made for an engaging story idea that kept me interested throughout. While the main conflict didn't have a lot of complex depth, it did subtly appear early. Erica has fallen in love with a Dairy Queen sign named "Dee," an artful character constructed by Philip Feldman. After allowing herself to awaken (in a sexual way) to the Dairy Queen sign, Erica begins to allow other objects to talk to her including a can opener who appears as BDSM gear-laden Michael Oloyede whispering "cold, metal, black." When she puts the can opener against her skin, someone complains and Erica loses her job at a supermarket. Her sister, Trish (Tressa Preston), a political activist promoting a referendum involving a downtown revitalization for small businesses is embarrassed by a caller to the show. So at first, it seems the main problem is Erica regaining a sense of normalcy so she doesn't hurt her sister's political ambitions. However, an astute viewer could pick up that the Dairy Queen is called old (it's on the edge of the downtown business district) and while Trish's bill is meant to help small businesses, it is conceivable she may use it to destroy Dee, which she does, causing a final rift between the sisters.
Mixed up in this, is an interesting human relationship that develops between Kevin, a manager at the DQ, and Erica. For six months, Erica has been coming to the DQ to get ice cream while Kevin just happens to have been working. Kevin has nursed a crush on her since high school. The two intermittently talk at night when Erica is trying to flirt with the DQ sign (yes, at times, this play is very funny). Erica even reveals her feelings for objects to Kevin at some point. At first, he is taken aback, but he eventually becomes extremely supportive. Erica suggests they could even get along harmoniously with her allowing him to have his way with her as well as other people if he is okay with her enjoying the occasional object. Too good to be true? Possibly. Maki Borden did a stellar job in the role, and he helped create many comedic moments.
Perhaps the infatuation with Dee was all just feelings for Kevin that couldn't be expressed another way? Or maybe Dee actually did exist and his climactic death will someday mean as much to us as the moment Jack floats away in Titanic. Regardless of what conclusions you may draw from your viewing of Inanimate, you will be entertained and have an interesting experience. Tickets are available for $35.00 online at www.theflea.org or via the Box Office extension at 212.353.3101.