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Open: 08/14/09- Close: 08/27/09 The Books
Reviewed for By: Jennifer Rathbone

Shawn Morrison ©2022  Aadya Bedi
Michael Edison Hayden’s THE BOOKS utilizes the themes and characters of Jazz era novels as parallels for his own characters’ experiences. Through the book swapping of Joyce’s The Dead, Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, Fitzgerald’s Tender as the Night, and others, Hayden’s THE BOOKS illustrates a couple with suppressed emotions, desires, and anxieties, challenged to make a personal connection in this texting and twittering world. Imperfect People presents THE BOOKS, a new play by Michael Edison Hayden, starring Aadya Bedi* as Helen/Mistress Chimera, Scott David Nogi* as Mark O’Connor, and Bradley Anderson as Ricky Rectangle at The New York International Fringe Festival.

Shawn Morrison ©2022  Aadya Bedi and Scott David Nogi
Mark O’Connor (Scott David Nogi*) works in maintenance for his apartment complex near the N train in Astoria, Queens. His indulgence in books is evident from the piles of novels covering the floor of his room. His simple and apparently mundane life of plunging toilets and watching the Knicks lose, abruptly cuts to a fantasy sequence of sexual domination with a woman, Mistress Chimera (Aadya Bedi*), adorned in a black latex corset, bob-cropped wig, stiletto boots, and a riding whip. We witness some of the foreplay and then the scene cross-fades into Mark’s apartment post-fantasy. It’s the aftermath of the previous sex scene, and Mistress Chimera, also known as Helen, makes small talk while awaiting payment for services rendered. Helen asks to borrow a book and, upon her exit, promises to return it next session. Over the course of the play, the scenes repeat this sequence of fantasy and small talk, where we become more aware of Mark’s misanthropic neuroses and of Helen’s interests in Mark, less as a client, and more as a friend. Throughout the weekly book exchange, the awkward romance between the neurotic and the dominatrix blossoms and culminates in Mark revealing an intimate personal secret about himself.

Michael Edison Hayden’s THE BOOKS attempts to delve into the ritualistic behavior of someone in a dissociative state where, in avoidance of the world, and in order to ultimately “feel” again, one self-deprecates. Through the repetitive sessions of sexual domination, the introversion in books, and in the somewhat agoraphobic living of Mark O’Connor, Hayden tries to create the portrait of a loner who is in search of being loved. The problem is, the play begins as a dark romantic comedy, but turns into a melodramatic battle with psychological afflictions. Although, the pop culture references of twitter and texting effectively link to the characters’ struggle to find human affection. And the beatnik style language with which Mark waxes poetically in the first half of the drama articulates his lack of emotional connection with the world and his affinity for books and words, but the language is inconsistent. It’s unclear in this production, if a clear choice has been made about what that style language means or why it’s being used at all.

Shawn Morrison ©2022  Aadya Bedi and Scott David Nogi
The cast gives intriguing performances. Bradley Anderson plays the echoing neighbor’s voice of Ricky Rectangle with comedic flair. Scott David Nogi,* as Mark O’Connor, is a convincingly meager lost soul. His body language of slightly slouched shoulders reveals the insecurity of the neurotic Mark. Aadya Bedi’s* tight strut and aggressively seductive maneuvers create a sexually charged Mistress Chimera. She also performs the down-to-earth actress, Helen, persona with effectual contradiction.

Director, Matt Urban, has done well with Hayden’s script. He has captured the fantasy verses reality scenes with the help of Lighting Designer, David Roy’s, use of footlight fluorescents and deep blue tones verses the yellowed glow of the apartment. Overall, the production has a well-rehearsed and clear relationship with the physical world on the stage.

Michael Edison Hayden’s new play, THE BOOKS, although a bit long and in need of some work in terms of language, is a taught production by Imperfect People that vigorously conveys the struggle to find love by breaking social and physical barriers through romantic intrigue and books.

Cherry Pit : 155 Bank St