Photos by Paul McCarthy
by Eugene Paul
An extremely rare theatrical happenstance is taking place at 59E59
Theaters: a star is aborning. A blazing star. If you pull yourself together
and hasten, you may be one of the fortunate beings to witness, to experience
this once in a lifetime zing. She’s exploding in one of their tiniest theaters
and standing room is not permitted. And only until October 4. Oh, yes,
indeed, it’s worth a try.
Her name is Genevieve Hulme-Beaman. Her show is Pondling.
It’s part of the 1st Irish Festival. And if you were Irish and
moved in the right circles, you’d know that name, but the astonishment! Well,
a gem’s a gem wherever you find it. Most gems in the theater never get a
chance to show. Role upon role lends even a true diamond only a single facet
to zap out lustre, but extraordinary Genevieve possesses the unique power of
creating her own setting and thus blaze out over a million facets. She has
written Pondling. Pondling? What’s that? What’s it mean? Could it be a
creature of the pond? Lots of things are in that pond. Things seem to end up
in the pond, we find out. It must mean –- we shall discover, shall we not.
Frightening, isn’t it.
A blaring child erupts onto the stage and bellows at us, barely
able to contain her energies. We are, of course, startled stiff, at once trying
to decipher what we have before us eating up our stirred senses and still stay
relatively cool. She is young. Very. Ten, perhaps. Smiling hard. Not the
eyes, no, never, not the eyes. Her eyes see secret beauties we cannot see, in
her haughty posing, in her gawky rocketing from one space to another, in her
glorious patent leather shoes, her dainty yellow skirt, pristine white socks
which won’t stay up.
And this is how she careens around her dour grandfather’s unkempt
farm, how she rumbles to town on her bike, how she falls madly in love with an
older man of fourteen, John O’Boyle Connor. John O’Boyle Connor, to dream of,
to die for, to stalk. John O’Boyle Connor who’ll wake up to her magical beauty
and they’ll live happily ever after. She‘s Madeline Humbert Buttercup, or so
she bawls from time to time. And her favorite place is the chicken shed.
She’ll sneak inside and roost. And tell and tell in precious safety. Because
“chickens are very good at keeping secrets”.
In town she loves the second hand
shop. She takes a DVD that catches her eye. No, she steals it. You can see
it in the flicker of the moment on her face. We are a bit more disturbed.
There have been other incidents trying to tell us Madeline has her own rules:
none. Tearing down that curtain? Why? She wants it. Right then. To become
her royal robe, her train, her shawl, her – bother, her nothing. She throws it
away. When she picks the pretty yellow flower, that horrid neighbor lady shouts
at her for being so stupid! It’s a deadly poison! Whereupon Madeline
surreptitiously deposits it in her pocket. We shudder. She wouldn’t, would
she? She’s only a little girl.
A very strong little girl. When she allows littler Ann Marie to
enter the private beauty of her special retreat, the chicken shed, Madeline
regales her with chicken stories: if you take off their heads, they’ll keep
running around. Which Ann Marie does not believe, who would? It takes all of
Madeline’s strength to try to pull off the head of the chicken under her arm
until she remembers a better way. Her smasher box.
They are exploring in Ann Marie’s wonderful house, full of Ann
Marie’s mother’s beautiful, beautiful things and delicious makeup and perfumes
and ointments and lipsticks. Madeline wants it all, uses every ointment, every
powder, makeup, lipstick. Somehow Ann Marie gets in the way and is knocked
unconscious, there under foot. She’s hard to drag. Better once she’s in a
case. Out of the way all the way to the chicken shed. Keep things beautiful.
Director Paul Meade is completely attuned to his playwright, his
star, his muse and keeps her enthralling performance frightening, funny,
absorbing, painfully fresh, start to finish, alive with possibilities. Ah,
that poison flower, it would be shameful to unspool the suspense and tell. You
surely want to see her. Madeline is a fund of surprise. Psychotic? A child?
Are you going to be able to look at children without a tiny sense of dread?
They’re just children…
Genevieve Hulme-Beaman has fashioned a spellbinding theater piece
and fulfills it to the brim. It’s an eye opener to treasure. Once you see her
you won’t forget her. That’s star power.
Pondling. At 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th
Street, near Park Avenue. Tickets: $25. 212-279-4200. 70 Min. Thru Oct 4.