Charles Manson. Need I say more? The name conjures up images every time its uttered. Is he a hero? Legend? Lover? Villain? What made so many follow him? These questions permeate every inch of You are Perfect, a new play by Cyndy Marion. White Horse Theater Company takes on this piece and does an adequate job exploring its nuances.
The play centers around Susan Atkins, one of Manson’s followers and conquests. But who is Susan? We are never quite sure until the very end of the play. In a small jail cell two women, one of which is the real Susan, re-hash their involvement with the infamous Mason and Helter Skelter. But why couldn’t Susan kill Sharon Tate as instructed? Was it mercy or cowardice on Susan’s part that prevented her from taking Tate’s life? We are left pondering until the play takes an abrupt turn and all hell breaks loose.
Unfortunately, just as the play finds its rhythm, we are jolted by new information that confuses everyone, including the actors. Sometimes blurring the lines between reality and fantasy can be wonderful, but here it just muddies the water and leaves us guessing. The plays strength lies in the exploration of cowardice, mercy, and love. I hope Marion will dive deeper into these arenas as they bear the most fruit.
The cast does a satisfactory job with this script. Nancy Wolfe is by far the stand out in the piece. She is fiery, yet vulnerable. Wolfe is the most connected and we are drawn to her like a moth to a flame. Brad Burgess makes a fair attempt at playing Charles Manson. I could not tell whether he was trying to impersonate Manson, bit it comes off as slightly cliché. I wish Burgess would invent Manson for himself and give us his portrayal, rather than a stereotype. Also Carlotta Brentan, who may or may not be Susan Atkins, struggles to find her footing. But again, it is the script’s current state that equals the performances given.
Yet, I hope Marion will further develop this piece. It has raw, emotional grit that could be compelling if developed further. Right now, its a diamond in the rough. But nonetheless there is a diamond somewhere in the play that is dying to be discovered more completely.
You are Perfect plays now through Feb 20th at The Workshop Theater Company Main Stage 312 W 36th St.