There's a certain format for plays that can pop up fairly often in events like the Hollywood Fringe with a minimum of rehearsal time. I call it the "serial monologues" in which several characters tell the audience their stories more or less with a similar theme, or kind of event, or a specific topic, etc. At its best they work just fine, offering what we long for in live theatre--moments of humanity, illuminating our own and others' lives, letting us feel our common humanity.
Sticky Fingers focuses on women who have all (save one) been caught shop-lifting. It also breaks the format of the "serial monologue" but ultimately turning into a scene where they are all listening to one another, reacting and commenting, offering support and sometimes judgment. For the record, I like this "breaking."
All the moreso since at first we seem to be meeting well-acted and entertaining stereotypes rather than fully fleshed characters. Then, it all slowly changes. Not least because it deals with a more fundamental question than how much of an issue is shoplifting? Rather, what might we lack that we feel compelled to steal in order to obtain it? Francine Daniels, for example--there's a gulf there inside her, as she herself recognizes, even if its exact nature remains elusive. No matter. There lies the power in the script. Whether it be Dionne Jones' secretary who longs for more than the most humdrum of lives, Hallie Myers' high schooler's wish to escape an embarassing family into a dream date, Breon Gorman's wife's sudden impulse for more out of her seemingly contented marriage, or Sidney Aptaker's teen with a somewhat obsessive relationship with eyeliner, we come to recognize them in us. Nobody after all is without some unfulfilled longing, some hunger unsatiated. We aren't talking about the violent, the dangerous, the deluded after all. Just the mildly desperate trying to make sense of themselves.
Their stories touch us. Well, they touched me, and the rest of the audience reacted pretty much as I did. When Fiona Lakeland's first character--the unrepentant thief--literally runs away from this group therapy meeting, we all seemed to realize she needed more time. Her second character, who arrives late for the meeting, proves a celebrity (although no one calls her by name, not even "Miss Ryder"). Details, as with the others, remain in most ways sparse--we get a precis of what led them to this, not a full biography. Enough for us to feel what we all have in common, how we all in one way or another need some healing.
Finally our narrator, Maya Ferrara's undercover security officer, recounts a specific trauma. Not one to explain her shoplifting--this play isn't ever really that narrow--but of a consequence, one horrible and not even remotely deserved (save in the view of some psychopath). And the others, they listen. As we listen. They, and we, recognize themselves in her.
What more needs be said?
Sticky Fingers has one more performance, Saturday June 25 at 10pm at the Dorie Theatre in the Complex
6476 Santa Monica Blvd.