by Richard Dodds
A quick quiz in cinematic pop-culture terminology: What do the following screen performances have in common? Natalie Portman in Garden State, Kirtsen Dunst in Elizabethtown, Charlize Theron in Sweet November, Melanie Griffith in Something Wild, and in case these examples don't flutter forward in memory or experience, consider also Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's and Barbra Streisand in What's Up, Doc?
These characters have all been labeled Manic Pixie Dream Girls in a trope that has elbowed its way into hipster-scented film analysis. Now it is arrived on stage, not only as a character, but also as the title of a world premiere beginning performances Jan. 17 at the ACT Costume Shop. The full title of Katie May's play adds yet another touchstone of the alt-cool: Manic Pixie Dream Girl: A Graphic Novel.
Assuming a generalized knowledge of the graphic novel as a grown-up comic book, here is a definition of "manic pixie dream girl" by the film critic who coined the phrase. An MPDG, according to critic Nathan Rabin, is "that bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures."
In the new stage play, MPDG explores the stock film character through the lens of a graphic novel and via the confines of an intimate theatrical experience. In other words, three genres for the price of one. As director Jon Tracy says, it's "a sardonic play for a sardonic world created by a sardonic company."
The playwright has fashioned a dark, comic story that follows a struggling graphic novelist who falls in love with a mysteriously silent manic pixie dream girl and explores what happens when she becomes more than just a character type. Artwork by Rob Dario figures prominently into director Jon Tracy's production.
"Manic Pixie Dream Girl was born out of a need to write a play for my friends," said playwright and producer Katie May, who is working under a PlayGround commission. "I find myself surrounded by people in their 20s and 30s who appreciate art and performance but don't go to the theater because so few productions speak directly to their own experiences."
Performances at ACT's recently opened Mid-Market performance space will continue through Feb.10. For tickets, call 799-8530 or go to www.manicpixiedreamgirl.org.
Photo: Kent Taylor
Transsex and the city
Proving that age is only a state of mind, some of the gang that played Sunshine State senior citizens in The Golden Girls have tasted at the fountain of youth and are now making merry in Manhattan in scripts appropriated from the Sex and the City archives. Under the aegis of Velvet Rage Productions, members of the cross-dressing troupe will perform two episodes each evening from the HBO series beginning Jan. 16 for an open-ended run at the Rebel Lounge.
Surprise is slight that it will be Heklina stepping into the Manolo Blahniks once worn by Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw. Other members of the BFF quartet are D'Arcy Drollinger (also the director) as the hot-to-trot Samantha, Lady Bear as the romantically conflicted Miranda, and Trixxie Carr as the prim-and-proper Charlotte. Carrie's all-important romantic interest Mr. Big will be played by Leigh Crow.
Limited tickets are available at the door of the small venue, but guaranteed seats can be had in advance at www.brownpapertickets.com.
Photo: Kelley Puleio
That old black magic
An old house in Salem, Mass., becomes an entrepreneurial playground for a group of 11-year-old boys who think there is money to be made in evoking the legacy of the town's witch trials of three centuries past. But in Morgan Bassichis' The Witch House, the spirits of the afflicted and accused of 1692 are aroused into a vengeful state. Performances begin Jan. 16 at the Garage.
The Garage, founded by Joe Landini in 2007, is designed as a "safehouse" for local performers in various disciplines. Bassichis, a staffer at Community United Against Violence, is a recipient of the Garage's AIRspace residency for emerging queer artists. Director Anthony Julius Williams predicts that The Witch House "will resonate with anyone who has ever been made a scapegoat." More information is available at www.facebook.com/thewitchhouseplay.
The touring cast of Anything Goes will switch berths on Jan. 21, sailing from the Golden Gate Theatre to the Theatre on Pier 39, for the S.S. American Variety Show. The song-dance-comedy revue is part of the Richmond/Ermet AIDS Foundation's One Night Only series that benefits Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS as well as REAF.
Erich Bergen, who plays Billy Crocker in the Anything Goes revival, will emcee the evening that, in addition to his fellow castmates, features LaToya London (American Idol), Lindsay Pearce (Glee ), and Tim Hockenberry (America's Got Talent). Tickets are $40 and $60, and an extra $20 will provide admission to a post-show dessert party with the cast at the Hard Rock Cafe. More information at 273-1620 or www.helpisontheway.org.