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"Nutcracker Rouge"
FRINGE NYC 2013 - So Far!
2013 Starting the Year (January) With a Few Good Promises
Current THEATER Reviews - for 2013
"MANIPULATION" at Cherry Lane
Fringe 2012
Fringe 2011 (NYC)
Some Things in 2008 Worth Remembering: First "Happy Days" at BAM, then The Scottish Tale
Prior to 2007
Angelica Torn
New York Timers - Friel's "Freedom"

This "MANIPULATION " is a form of seduction.
 Cristina's World (Who's the puppeteer and who's the puppet)? 
    Review by Kevin Martin


Mexican-born Victoria E. Calderon (I have never heard of her 'til now, but I am very glad I did) has written a little gem of a new play - a mere 70 + minutes long, and it shines. Directed with lightning sensitivity and worked through (good, REAL acting is work) by an utterly fine cast, this scenically well-designed, enchantingly sounded, excellently costumed, smartly lighted 'MANIPULATION" in fact shines - glows - on all sides in this production. 
Taking place (somewhere) in the faux-modernist, expensive apartment of Cristina and Mauricio in Latin America, 'MANIPULATION" bespeaks itself metaphorically, perhaps, of the unrest curdling through at least some of the daily lives of women, as personalized in the experience of one Cristina (adroitly felt by actor Marina Squerciati).  Fatherless Cristina, the main protagonist of this sparkler, is married very young to the very moneyed, successful Mauricio.  As far as I am concerned, - and partly excepting Cristina's poor-ritzy mother's view of the world (this role of Beatriz is played luminously by Saundra Santiago), this is not a "feminist" play; but, rather, a sort of  "marriagist" one: the belief that marriage, still a must-try thing to do in society, leaves many spouses believing in,  and fearful of, being locked in - though often admitting furtively that the institution of marriage is really just all too much, and all too other-centered for some folks to bear. Yes, we can all be quite selfish at times.
Mauricio applies his manly-ish, husbandly interest (ala "you have all the money you need") toward lonesome, under loved Cristina with that oft-infamous carnal habit of quick get-it-over-with sex, while all the while offering patchy assurances of his love, Mauricio-wise speaking.  But Mauricio, as rendered by the perfectly-tuned craft of Robert Bogue, is a guy with his own problems.  In fact, it really isn't ONLY Cristina who is lonely (she lives out all her deeply repressed needs and regrets with high wired mental flashes that are the actual play itself); everyone is lonely.  I am lonely, you are lonely, we are all lonely, even if we do love, for love sometimes goes missing from life's emotional tool box.  Cristina hooks up with Luis (done extremely right by Rafi Silver) a gifted pianist with hands that only a Cristina could love but which speaks volumes of her erstwhile lonely marriage.  And so, 'MANIPULATION" makes me wonder - reminds me again, that there may not be any exit from this field of occasional, sometimes strangeness we call living, and that whether there are ghouls standing by us as we continue our daily function or whether there is something better than this, who knows? There are literally a few ghoulish types lurking in Cristina's world, to be sure. Cristina, who later finds respite in Poeta (a young, impoverished poet, so-named, and done just right by Brendan McMahon), goes to see a shrink and tells him that she fears her husband.  As a possible comment on modern therapy - and medication - the shrink does not really help Cristina, and instead exasperates the same fear she feels toward Mauricio. The shrink, "Dr. Lublitz" is deftly brought out by Jeremy Stiles Holmes, and he's quite a shrink, and indeed, is clearly unfulfilled himself, no less. As per Cristina's lament to Dr. Lublitz, well, therein lies the rub; how can we love something, or someone, that we fear? Alas, we really can't, and don't.  The dramatic effects by the exquisite light and sound work almost perfectly; one very minuscule complaint is that the lighting transitions were ever so slightly long.
If a dream itself is but a shadow, then this "MANIPULATION" casts a big one; Cristina's vivid dream reflection of living is painful and true. We see, at play's end, that Cristina is in a museum (what better place is there to house the human condition?) gazing into a very famous painting that, ideally or otherwise, sums up her existential woe.  What she sees, and observes, in some certain measure, is all of us, you and me, - and it's not pretty.   
All the actors, including  Gabriel Furman as Alejandro, have made it clear: the play's the thing.
 "MANIPULATION", brilliantly written and handsomely staged at the Cherry Lane, runs through Sunday, August 21.
  For Tickets and Information:  TEL.# 212.989.2020 

"MANIPULATION", Written by 
    Victoria E. Calderon;
    Directed by Will Pomerantz;
  Lighting: Kirk Bookman; Sound:Jeremy Lee;
  Costume Design: Alejo Vietti; Scenic Design:
  Bill Stabile
  *  Executive Director: Angelina Fiordellisi

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