SEX, LIES, AND ELEPHANTS
There’s an elephant in the room in Miss Lilly Gets Boned and it’s not just the sexuality of the eponymous Sunday school teacher. It’s an extraordinary hulking beast made of cloth and cardboard that blinks its eyes and is articulate in more ways than one. Created by James Ortiz and operated by three actors (Brian Belcinski, Adam Blodgett, and Aaron McDaniel), the elephant, named Harold, is just one of the delights of Beckah Brunstetter’s gem of a play, which is currently playing at the 2012 Ice Factory Festival.
Yes, a pent-up Miss Lilly (Jessica Dickey) does indeed get boned, but this play is much more than the attempts of 31-year old virgin to get laid. Sexuality is all tied up with religious censure, turning it into a complicated moral minefield that both Lilly and her promiscuous sister Lara (Liz Wisan) have difficulty navigating. “I’m damaged goods,” Lara declares after announcing that she has HPV, “I’m that flower from that lecture in youth group. All my petals ripped off. One by one.”
The real dilemma in the play has little to do with whether or not Lilly gets it on with Richard (Chris Thorn), the sexy South African father of a troubled boy in her Sunday school class. That’s a foregone conclusion from the moment that he tells her that his name is Dick. Instead, Lilly’s late and involuntary virginity frames a smart and insightful examination of the animal urge for both sex and violence. As Lilly attempts to come to terms with both instincts, she discovers just how deeply – and tragically – they are intertwined.
Ultimately, despite its provocative title, Miss Lilly Gets Boned is really more about violence than sex. Even Lilly confesses after her cherry is finally popped, “I have marks. It hurt.” Eventually, an apocalypse reminiscent of Ionesco’s Rhinoceros renders Lilly’s fateful sexcapades moot and the play comes to rest on whether Richard’s son Jordan (David Rosenblatt) and the elephant Harold can find their way out of the cyclical violence that has permeated their lives.
The elephant, as it turns out, has killed Jordan’s mother, possibly because the elephant has himself seen his mother killed. As in Peter Shaffer’s Equus, a psychotherapist, Vandalla Bhalla (Sanam Erfani), attempts to understand her subject’s violent proclivities, but in this play, she is trying to help the elephant, not the child. The elephant’s resistance to Bhalla’s heartfelt attempts to connect with him mirrors Jordan’s lashing out in Lilly’s class. Brunstetter has a pitch-perfect ear for dialogue, particularly the non-sequiturs uttered by children. “People are not good. People are just animals,” Jordan states and then digresses, “Once I saw a baby elephant nursing on his mother who was dead. Elephants sleep standing up.”
While the doctor is tragically unable to cure the elephant, to, as she puts it “return him to his inherent nature…his kindness,” there is perhaps more hope for the boy. In a rare and beautiful moment of connection between Lilly and Jordan, they each confess that they no longer want to “follow the rules,” causing him to spontaneously embrace his father. Perhaps because of this, he is later able to tell the elephant, “I forgive you, I think.”
Directed by David F. Chapman, Miss Lilly Gets Boned is a rich and unique play, and not only for the superb elephant, which really must be seen to be believed. Produced by Studio 42, which has a mission for putting on “unproducible” plays, Miss Lilly Gets Boned is filled with stirring moments that straddle absurdity and epiphany (even God tosses Miss Lilly a bone). Brunstetter is clearly one hot writer and with Miss Lilly, she definitely scores. If you can get tickets to this sold-out run, I highly recommend it.
Photos by Elizabeth Olson
Miss Lilly Gets Boned
Studio 42 at The New Ohio Theatre (part of the 2012 Ice Factory Festival)
scheduled to end on July 21, 2012
for tickets, call 212-868-4444 or visit http://www.NewOhioTheatre.org