The world according to John Kuntz is a bizarre and often perilous place, whether he’s writing about beginnings (THE ANNOTATED HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN MUSKRAT) or endings (NECESSARY MONSTERS) or even limbo (THE HOTEL NEPENTHE).
For NECESSARY MONSTERS (playing at SpeakEasy Stage through Jan.3rd), Kuntz has created a dramatic wasteland a la Hieronymus Bosch. Eight actors are confined in an enormous cage—which may be a plane, judging from the stewardess’ safety instructions at the very start of the play—or it may be a sound stage, judging from the hand held cameras, the delightful rewinds and the slew of blindingly bright television screens (which sometimes record real time).
Where MUSCRAT and NEPENTHE tapped into a universal consciousness, NECESSARY MONSTERS does not, although it references the seamy side of pop culture with a vengeance. Instead of SNAKES ON A PLANE, we witness the serial killer from FRIDAY THE 13th (who had the bad luck of stopping en route for A BEHANDING IN SPOKANE) ruthlessly stalking his unsuspecting victims in their upright seats.
Characters aren’t dispatched just once, mind you. The mayhem is repeated and repeated. One woman, Kuntz wryly explains, is spared because she “looked already dead” and to kill her “would be redundant.” If you’re expecting the clever humor of his other plays, you won’t be happy. Not until Thomas Derrah wakes up an hour or so in (Didn’t he hear the explosions?) are we treated to a nifty, naughty monologue about faulty child rearing practices. Then as quickly as he arrives, he slinks back down to the floor and snoozes for the rest of the play, as did the man seated next to me.
Kuntz, himself, is one of the characters or rather two of the characters because he seems to be a psychiatrist at one point, and a swimmer in another scene in which he saves Michael Underhill (and monkey) from drowning. McCaela Donovan and Underhill meet on a blind date (in the plane?). As a child, Underhill may have been abused by Georgia Lyman’s babysitter. Stacey Fischer’s character is depressed throughout. Evelyn Howe keeps getting slashed by Greg Maraio’s killer…who manages a playful strip tease but later becomes a terrorist and blows up the plane, maybe. I couldn’t swear to any of this.
Kuntz and director David R. Gammons struck gold with HOTEL NEPENTHE but the imagery in MONSTERS is so overwhelming that I couldn’t piece it together, I’m sorry to say. I didn’t even realize that actors were doubling roles or that locales had changed, let alone follow a time line but I did enjoy the cat videos.