Fashion in the time of the West Nile Virus

Amy Danielson

Here’s the buzz on Monique the Mosquito Takes First Runner Up: It is a one-act play about a striking young mosquito named Monique (Connie Ross) whose entire first few days on earth have been devoted to preparations for her admittance in the Miss International Mosquito Pageant. Meanwhile, a grimy tatterdemalion of a mosquito (Paula Hood) conspires to return her to the pond from which she hatched.

Eccentric Minneapolis playwright Lisa D’Amour wrote Monique as part of a three-part bestiary entitled Three Mutants: Plays About Girls. Each play in the trilogy analyzes “beauty, bravery and girlness with horrific and hilarious intensity,” according to the New Dramatists Web page. Bedlam’s production of Monique, the second one-act in the series, takes D’Amour’s crude, eclectic crude aesthetic to heart.

D’Amour’s creative energy melds well with Bedlam’s zealous approach to theater. In the past, her rampant enthusiasm has prompted her to stage shows even without physical access to a traditional theater. Instead, bridges, empty boutiques and wooded patches have served as her stages. These unexpected spaces (the Bedlam included) seem proper for someone inspired by architecture and road trips.

D’Amour’s script is riddled with poetic imagery and dialogue that oscillates between caustic and mirthful. Some lines are so ridiculous that one actress, dressed as a maggot, could not curtail her opening night giggles. The result: an amateurishly delivered (albeit cleverly written) segment detailing the rules and regulations of the Miss International Mosquito Pageant. Some additional casting choices, such as Hood as Monique’s competition, could use reconsideration. Hood performs without subtlety, whining each line of dialogue.

Preparing for the pageant proves to be physically challenging: The mosquitoes must starve themselves by adhering to a strict diet devoid of blood but rich in algae. In an amusingly written scene, Marsha gets her stinger into a gruel of slaughterhouse blood, which she describes as tasting as delicious as sawdust, milk and metal. Delicious to a mosquito perhaps, and potentially funny, but a moment lost on this inexperienced actress.

Excluding the palmary performances (Monique and a live cello player), most of the cast lacks refinement. Sure, this is experimental theater, but the playwright’s story and artistic vision would transmit more clearly if we weren’t distracted by the middling performances. Nevertheless, this is still a show that deserves credit for its surreal and humorous elements. And it’s cheap theater, too ($5-10). Unlike my criticism of the Guthrie for not living up to my expectations, the Bedlam and those who perform there have significantly less available resources. They deserve credit for what they do well: challenging the constraints of local theater and building the community with distinctive work.

 

Monique the Mosquito Takes First Runner Up plays through August 25 at the Bedlam Theater, (612) 341-1038.