Carole Gaunt’s new off-Broadway play, Dance of the Seven Headed Mouse, shows a family struggling to keep it together as the death of a child forces painful revelations.
What This Show Is About
Dance of the Seven Headed Mouse is far more straightforward than its enigmatic title suggests. In fact, I still don’t know what the title means.
I do know Dance shows us a “they have it all” family on New York’s Upper East Side who must find out if they really have anything when a child is killed in a car wreck.
Elly and Kevin have a busy, happy life. He’s a globe-hopping architect. She’s a former mayor’s daughter about to move into the political fund-raising big leagues. Their daughter Avril is quiet, smart, shy and lovely. Their youngest daughter, Molly, whom we never see, is the apple of Mom’s eye.
We learn all this in first minutes of the play. Then a knock on the door comes, and it’s the police.
Fast forward five months. Avril has hitched home from boarding school and won’t say why, but it becomes clear. Elly has deconstructed and is lost in white wine and pills. She is tormented by the memory of Molly, who now appears to have been the perfect child through the soft lens of grief. With Kevin traveling all the time, Avril fears for Elly’s life.
Then a friend comes from Avril’s school to try to coax her back, upsetting the household's delicate imbalance. Ugly confrontations reveal ugly truths. And the family’s survival is at stake.
Actors to Watch
Youngish actors playing teenagers can be downright painful. But Lauren Currie Lewis as Avril and Molly Ephraim as Juliana pull it off. They communicate that insufferable self-righteousness that goes with the age but also the vulnerability that attaches to young people facing adult responsibilities but without having adult resources.
Laura Bonarrigo, whom many will know from turns on All My Children and One Life to Live, creates a character in Elly who is at once sympathetic and unlikable. And that means she does a fine job. Elly has the tools of upper class breeding, so her descent into grief and addiction is nuanced with knowing self-indulgence.
Joseph Adams, as Kevin, could have a thankless, “bookend” role. He appears at the play’s opening and near the end. But he makes Kevin a character we like. A talented guy who, in another situation, would be a great father, husband and provider. Suddenly, with the death of Molly, his strengths appear as weaknesses. He’s a man who had both feet firmly on the ground, who finds himself out to sea.
A Play Created to Help
Dance of the Seven Headed Mouse was written by Gaunt with the purpose of providing help and hope to those struggling with the guilt that follows the death of a child. And because it is a bit of a primer on the subject, it can take on a “by the numbers” feel. However, Gaunt manages to surprise us, particularly in the final scenes.
The play is ably directed by Christopher McElroen, who is the co-founder and executive director of The Classical Theatre of Harlem.
Where and When
- Becket Theatre (Theatre Row)
410 West 42nd Street
- Show Times and Tickets
- Opening: June 22, 2009
- Closing: June 25, 2009
- Genre: Drama
- Run Time: 90 minutes (no intermission)
- Advisories: None