Writer: Joshua Conkel
Director: Rebecca Atkinson-Lord
Reviewer: Deborah Klayman
Entertaining, engaging, and at times downright hysterical, The Sluts of Sutton Drive pushes the audience off the top of a slippery slope alongside its protagonist, Stephanie Schwartz, making them a part of her rapid descent into an absurd world of sex, stalkers and self-harm. Darkly comic and sublimely surreal at its best, this new play is well worth an evening of your time.
Trapped in an unfulfilling life in which she is a single parent and reluctant girlfriend who works at the checkout in a grocery store, Stephanie (Georgia Buchanan) is looking for a way to escape and make it all stop. Her best friend Sharice Hildebrand seems to think a stripping class at the gym will help, but with a stalker and a serial rapist outside and her boyfriend Will and monosyllabic son Jayden inside, Stephanie is nearing her wits end. From the first scene this play is peppered with interesting characters and clever conventions, and the snappy, witty exchange between Stephanie and Sharice (Kelly Burke) sets the comic tone, while her uncomfortable yet intriguing meeting with the Mailman (Matt Steinberg) hints at a dark underbelly to the piece. The first half of the play is very strong, both in writing and performance, but left you wondering what would be left to address in the second.
Unfortunately, these fears were somewhat affirmed by the last third of the play which lacked the earlier sections’ focus and intensity. Mainly this is in the writing, as despite a strong performance by Eric Kofi Abrefa the character of Jayden felt underdeveloped and it seemed as if the play should have finished twice before it did, making it seem a little overlong. Some facts about Stephanie’s life, which were implicit, were delivered at the end as if the writer feared we would not understand her motivations – something that was unnecessary due to the strength of the actress playing her. Meanwhile Burke’s Sharice appeared to lack intention in the second act and James Hillier’s Will – impressive in the first part – added little.
Although it would certainly benefit from some tightening up, these elements cannot detract from the excellent writing and performances throughout the rest of the production, not least of all from Buchanan who gave a truly outstanding performance in the central rôle. Her Stephanie is amusing, infuriating and sympathetic and at once, and her downward spiral entirely believable due to her integrity and commitment to the rôle.