REVIEWS OF THE PLAY
Youthful fantasies may be a vital part of growing up, but just as with the influence of teachers, parents, and friends, their effects can linger — and do considerable damage — once you've grown up. Steven Fechter's new play Lancelot, which just opened at the Gym at Judson, is a provocative, if not always elegant, exploration of this concept, and not just from the viewpoint of the young. If you accept that adolescent dreams don't always end just because adolescence does, you're opening the door to a world of problems that no amount of time, therapy, recovery, or for that matter sex can fix.
Fechter deftly weaves the pair's torrid passions around the suffocating mundanities of their joint existence. It's apparent that Ryan is chafing against the social and religious strictures of his community, which he perceives let him down when he needed them most, and that Ginger is far from the monster she's long been made out to be. But even these matters are not necessarily as they appear, and it's not long before everyone is discovering secrets that force them to rethink most of the choices they've made in their conscious lives.
Though both Ryan and Ginger float the idea that their love is something deeper, it's clear that neither is sure whether that's actually true, or a good thing even if it is. And the devastation that coming together has wrought on their souls, minds, and hearts is palpable, especially as new developments force new decisions that reveal new, still-bloody, wounds.
Romy Nordlinger layers complicated emotions onto Ginger, and manages them with intricate aplomb: A savage longing behind her eyes testifies to the woman's sensuous and predatory natures, giving you both sides of the argument until the scale can tilt one way or another.
Ryan and Ginger are solid creations, and reveal fascinating shadings of morality amid a world that's depicted, not always without reason, as intensely monochromatic. This also explains the significance of the play's title: a crusader for purity who gets wrapped up in the sins he abhors and, in struggling to make things better, succeeds in little more than making them worse. That Fechter keeps you wondering throughout who the real Lancelot is proves to be the chief success of his cunning little play.
Lancelot: The brave knight of King Arthur's Round Table who had an adulterous affair with Queen Guinevere, then rescued her from the stake when she was about to be burned for treason.
Ryan: The youngest manager of a store named United Goods in Oklahoma who encourages his employees to cultivate a productive, safe and happy atmosphere for both customers and employees.
It is difficult at first to see the connection between these two men in Steven Fechter's Lancelot. They couldn't be more different. However, the connection becomes clear when Ginger, Ryan's former art teacher, re-enters his life. "My Lancelot," she calls him. It was a nickname she had for him when they conducted a tumultuous affair many years before. He was thirteen. She was twenty six.
Playwright Steven Fechter (author of the film/play The Woodsman) has written an effective piece about what happens when the past comes back to haunt you.
…The leisurely pacing gives us time to get to know the characters and where they come from. Once the play starts to pick up, it is riveting.
Stephen James Anthony and Romy Nordlinger turn in wonderful performances: Mr. Anthony is completely believable as a man who, whether he likes it or not, is still a rebellious youth at heart. Even when he's addressing his employees, his youth peeks through his authority. Ms. Nordlinger is sultry, sexy, and vulnerable as Ginger.
Lancelot explores the space between the poor decisions of misguided youth and the attempt to have an orderly adult life: what we dreamed of being versus the reality of what it is easier to be. It’s an intriguing take (at an exploded, super-enhanced level), but somehow we can all relate. We come to realize that sometimes it’s best just to let go of regret and move forward with life as we know it.
Nordlinger’s interloping Ginger is sexy and mysterious, as she should be, but also vulnerable and sensitive. Though she’s the play’s real, blameworthy catalyst, she’s a sympathetic enough character that it’s easy to try to hold her blameless. And Anthony and Lulu Fogarty play their righteous, wholesome middle class roles beautifully.
There is a lot of pretty flesh showcased in Lancelot… That flesh is draped on a bare-bones production of a powerful play. Playwright Steven Fechter takes another cut at dramatizing pedophilia. His Woodsmanaddresses the post-prison adjustment of a child molester. In Lancelot, the plot hangs on a long ago seduction of a sensitive thirteen-year old boy by his twenty-six-year-old art teacher.
The towheaded boy is beautiful and sensual, maybe a bit feral. It is difficult to believe he grows up to be our very straight laced — and not especially handsome — hero. But of course, that’s the thing; Ryan’s been smothering that beautiful boy for a decade.
He’s there and not there. He urges Ryan to “hurry” outside as “she’s waiting for you.”
“She” is Ginger. Romy Nordlinger struts and primps Ginger before “Ry” the boy she once seduced and now the man she’s come back to reclaim. She is feline and confident and quick to use the past to unwind his defenses. (“I recall you liked big breasts. You were crazy about mine. You’d push your face down into them like a parched boy drinking in a cool stream.”) Nordlinger and Anthony establish a polished push-me/pull-me connection as they approach and withhold. The tension is palpable between them.
Fechter’s script is tight and layered, and speaks to big themes about art and talent, gender and morality. His characters are complicated and do not happily resolve themselves in ninety minutes. Is Ginger corrupt or redemptive? Is Ry irredeemably damaged?
There are wonderful exchanges that play on several levels. When Tara discovers Ryan was not only raped (statutorily) but he also stabbed Ginger’s enraged husband twenty-seven times, she’s incredulous, and he delivers a very funny line with aplomb.
TARA: Twenty-seven times?
RYAN: He was a big man. It was a small knife.
There is real theater here. Try to get a ticket.
There’s something about life in the vast Great Plains that brings out the scary in some folks, regardless of how hard they try to fit in. Case in point: Ryan, the central character in Steven Fechter’s compelling and psychologically complex new drama, Lancelot.
Ryan is one of the managers at the Walmart-like United Goods store somewhere out in the heartland of Oklahoma, where compliant employees are rewarded with a slice of pizza and a soda for working on Thanksgiving Day and where lonely men wind up—as Ryan puts it—talking to “their horse, their truck, or their gun.”
And even when we are pretty sure where things are heading, the play offers up surprising twists that prevent any of the characters from behaving exactly as we might expect. The thrill of watching the plot unfold is in seeing the walls closing in on Ryan as he strives to decide which trap door to fall through—for trap doors are all that are available to him.