You’re sitting alone fantasizing; perhaps about a powerful interior decorator, or maybe about a certain smokin’ hot bike. Whatever your fancy, you’re alone and your thoughts are yours. But what if you exposed them aloud? Wouldn’t it make you tremble in fear at the potential revulsion of others? That they might ask the age old question: What’s wrong with you?
In her autobiographical show Inexcusable Fantasies, playwright, dramaturg, and performer Susan McCully opens up a world of self-discovery using her literal experience with blindness and that of being invisible and blinded by her own inner self’s deepest unspoken taboos as a tightly focused lens of comparison to explore and reflect upon being comfortable with her own sexuality. Offered as a part of Strand Theater Company’s 2012/2013 season, this ingeniously inventive journey is a riotous good laugh with points of raw exposure that welcomes you into Susan’s world while inviting you to examine your own dark desires and self image.
Director Eve Muson gives guidance to the trio of female performers in this existential self-inquiry. The subjects examined throughout the piece don’t just push the envelope in regards to sexuality and acceptance, they ram it into a cannon and shot it off like a grand finale at a circus. Muson’s scene work in the intimate space invites the audience directly into those deliciously awkward moments. The projections of utter raw emotions projected from the three performers – Susan McCully in particular – is nothing short of astonishing.
At the beginning we are presented with Susan McCully as a narrator of sorts. The way she rambles out her inner monologue as if talking to everyone and no one but herself all at the same time is enigmatically intriguing. As the story progresses we are invited into three scenes; each one tackling a deeply taboo desire. And a fourth scene – thrown early into the mix – to express outside opinions to McCully’s lifestyle.
Appearing in just one scene, performer Wendy Salkind adapts the role of the motherly figure with a prim and pinched approach. The scene races like the timer on a volcano, each moment building atop the next as Salkind’s well structured composure begins to fray at the seams until finally she erupts with the sheer tragedy – as if it were the worst thing on earth – that her daughter is a lesbian due to the poor genetics that made her un-pretty. Salkind’s performance maintains a high level of energy from beginning to end; transforming from an internal vibration that drives her to an external explosion that defines her.
Playing opposite of McCully in the three fantasy scenes is Sarah Ford Gorman. Given three very different roles, Gorman lives up the challenge of executing them with the same levels of passion and exuberance that radiate from McCully throughout the performance. Her spastic reactions to inappropriate situations – especially during the Martha Stewart scene – are priceless. Her sudden transition from pampered perfectionist to the verbal out-lashing of judgmental accusations at Susan is quite stunning, bordering on horrifying. Gorman runs the full gambit of emotional struggles, her third scene making her an exasperated girlfriend who can no longer cope with her girlfriend’s obsession, using her physicality to clearly express these frustrations. But her best moment is her silent one. In the biker scene with Susan she simply sits and listens; her stoic facial features telling us everything we need to know. Her apathetic disinterest outshines the sun, but with just enough attention to keep us hooked until the sudden twist at the end of the scene.
And then there is the playwright herself. McCully’s approach to the performance is sensational; a raw and gripping exposure of her inner monologue, including her desires, insecurities, and frustrations. The audience is rewarded with captivating shifts in character as she moves from one scene to the next, slipping back into her normal narrative self in-between. During the biker scene she plays into the stereotype of butch, projecting a rough exterior that’s as stiff as her leather jacket. She is a dedicated and dynamic performer, moving with seamless fluidity from one character to the next, gliding along the surface of her conscious to bring a rooted element of reality to each moment on the stage. The sheer vulnerability that she expresses in the vibrator scene, topped with her compulsive obsession and self-discovery in that moment, makes you want to weep for her – if only you could stop laughing at the ridiculous subject matter. McCully creates a world of questions and answers with her words and her performing that she delves into with a solid passion, reminding us what real women truly ought to be like.
Running Time: 75 minutes, with no intermission.
Susan McCully’s Inexcusable Fantasies plays through November 17, 2012 at Strand Theatre – 1823 N. Charles Street, in Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (443) 874-4917, or purchase them online.