Regional Reviews: St. Louis
The Residents of Craigslist
A spellbinding series of rants and whispers, howls at the moon, and shouts into the wind propel Will Bonfiglio's collection of real, anonymous postingswhich he originally gathered in a search for audition monologs. Lucy Cashion directs, and it all might be what Diane Arbus would have done, if she'd been armed with a computer instead of a camera. And if she'd had a sense of humor.
Presented by Equally Represented Arts, it's the third mounting of the same avalanche of the haunting and the outrageous, which first hit the stage in 2014, and which we last saw in preparation for the SIU-E X-Fest in 2015. My most earnest and sincere fear (in the context of modern theater) is that you may have to wait another two years to see this mad assemblage again, if you miss it in 2017.
In this one-week production at the Centene Center for the Arts, most of the show's regulars return, with the addition of Carl Overly, Jr. He gets a big online gospel-styled vituperation, but not before a funny (true) monolog of a seller parting with his 1980s mirrored coffee table, "great for snorting cocaine off." The table can't tell its stories, but Mr. Overly, Jr. goes on to somewhat abashedly fill in every single gap in its narrative.
Some "sex-wanted" postings are made wistful, or even harrowing. And some are just plain grittyloudly, briskly chanted straight-out at the audience by the chorus of actors, as an affront to the conscience. It also turns out that a surprising number of people happened to think you were totally hot at the gym, FYI. But so many other quiet, sad little notices are slipped under the psychological doormat, especially by actress Cara Barresi, and are far more impactfulsearches for birth mothers, anguished last shots at cheating boyfriends, or just meekly looking for a new friend in a strange town. The messages are all from the St. Louis area, with one big exception.
That one exception is a posting ruefully recited by Mr. Bonfiglio himself, the posting of a telemarketer in Seattle who unwisely fell in love (on the phone) with a girl here, named Summer. (Ruefulness is a big undercurrent in this play.) In this one of many striking, true stories, a young man named Anthony tries to reconnect through Craigslist, with self-conscious apologies and what amounts to a great set-up for a major motion picture. But it all goes by in a rush in this version of "short attention-span theater," and there's no rom-com payoff. Each hopeful gesture becomes its own full (and sometimes astonishing) artistic statement of longing or regret.
But more prevalent are the stories like Mitch Eagles' (initially) admonishing protest against the world, as a man who keeps falling madly in love with women who are "out of his league." And he just has to get it off his chest, his misery at the romantic injustice of it all. ("Getting things off your chest" is another good description of all of this.)
Ellie Schwetye has a dastardly funny monolog in which she admittedly tries to sell "the most uncomfortable chair in the world" in a blithe and languid style; and Natasha Toro earnestly recites two great little tutorial postings, one about online grammar (diagramming sentences) and the other about the fine art of photographing one's own personal "junk." But so much of our day-to-day longing and yearning, and just plain horniness, goes rushing by, that it adds up to a disastrous sip from a fire-hose, or a wildly pungent tasting menu from virtually every level of the human soul.
Brilliant, and tragic, and oh-so-funny.
Through December 16, 2017, on the fourth floor of the Centene Center for the Arts, 3547 Olive St., between St. Louis University and the Fox Theatre. For more information visit www.eratheatre.org.