The Apeman of Manhattan

Local Arts Reviews

The Apeman of Manhattan: What's It All About?

The Off Center,

through June 23

Running Time: 1 hr, 55 min

Since seeing this Remembrance Through the Performing Arts world premiere of Rosalyn Rosen's script, I've been considering what it's really all about. After six years apart, Jean Remington, a well-off advertising executive living in a posh Manhattan apartment, is paid a visit by her former lover, Sam Eckhart, a charming, handsome transient. During their time together, Sam rendered a series of paintings, and after he left her, she sold most of them for a load of cash. After the sale, she attempted to find him and tell him of this unexpected success, but she failed. Ever since, she has kept the money in trust and kept four of his paintings prominently hanging in her apartment. The bulk of the play revolves around Jean's attempts to come to grips with her feelings for the newly reappeared Sam, who is so obviously using her in the worst kind of way.

Director Mark Ramont and his design team stage Rosen's story in what is, for the most part, a realistic manner. Pedro Murteira's set design is rich without being gaudy and provides exactly what's necessary: a dark wooden dining room table and chairs, a cushy sofa, and, of course, the four paintings illuminated on the walls. However, I found the painted floor of both the apartment and the hallway outside and the visible wooden supports holding up the walls to be a bit jarring. Zach Murphy's lights adequately highlight mood and don't draw attention unless they're helping us focus on what's important. Rosen provides the costume design, and it is entirely appropriate. Sam's clothing is assembled from random and distressed pieces. His girlfriend, Randi, in a tight shirt, leather skirt, fishnets, and heels, looks like a total slut. Jean is completely professional in an assortment of businesswear, and when she strips off her outer layers, her lingerie is just revealing enough to be titillating.

The most impressive aspect of the production is the acting, but it is also the aspect that gave me the most trouble. While Ramont moves his actors around the stage smoothly and easily, the movement is occasionally excessive and unmotivated. This is striking because Ramont so obviously understands how to stage this kind of story. Likewise, his actors display a wonderful understanding of rhythm and tempo, particularly when arguing, but other aspects of their relationship don't quite gel. Babs George's Jean and Guy Forsyth's Sam are totally believable up to a point, but despite numerous moments of overt, sometimes pornographic, sexuality, I had difficulty believing this man truly was the love of this woman's life. Forsyth displays a natural charm as Sam, but he doesn't move beyond a generalized slickness often enough. I also found it confusing that someone so intelligent would choose to live homeless. Finally, the beautiful Camille Chen's Randi is articulate and intelligent and not at all what you would expect from someone who both dresses like and says she provides fellatio for a living.

Which leaves me where I began: What is this all about? While pigeonholing stories isn't always helpful, this one fits the melodrama mold so easily that it's difficult not to place it there. However, after spending more time in consideration, I realized that it might be more appropriate to describe it as post-feminist drama. After all, Sam seems to represent everything negative about the proverbial white male. He lies, he cheats, he steals, he uses, he says whatever he thinks both Jean and Randi want to hear, and he displays no remorse -- he's really the worst kind of sociopath. An ape has more feelings. But Jean recognizes his flaws -- and forgives him! Sounds post-feminist to me.

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The Apeman of Manhattan, Remembrance Through the Performing Arts, Rosalyn Rosen, Mark Ramont, Pedro Murteira, Zach Murphy, Babs George, Guy Forsyth, Camille Chen

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