'American Sligo' by New City Stage a hilarious, chilling body slam

Allen Radway (left) as Victor Sligo and Sam Sherburne as his brother Kyle in New City Stage Company's production of Adam Rapp's "American Sligo."
Allen Radway (left) as Victor Sligo and Sam Sherburne as his brother Kyle in New City Stage Company's production of Adam Rapp's "American Sligo." (RUSS WIDDALL)
Posted: June 04, 2013

"We are quarter-ton clowns." That's how Art "Crazy Train" Sligo sums up his career as a professional wrestler in Adam Rapp's American Sligo. New City Stage's production is both hilarious and chilling, as Aaron Cromie directs this brilliant cast, which can turn the mood on a dime.

The play has little to do with literal wrestling but much to do with metaphoric wrestling, as this family wrangles and squabbles and finds new and improved ways to be mean to one another; we watch the family fall to hideous pieces before our eyes, but not before we've spent a good deal of time laughing.

Rapp - whose heartwrenching Nocturne and wild and disturbing Red Light Winter have been seen in Philadelphia - begins American Sligo where dysfunctional family dramas usually begin, at a dinner table. This one is covered with a faux lace cloth and has a little action figure at the place setting of their guest, Bobby (Jordan B. Mottram), the hero-worshipping young man who has come to see the historic last match of Crazy Train, played by the enormous and impressive John Jezior. Cory Palmer's set is wondrously cluttered.

Aunt Bobbie (Susanne Sulby) cannot remember Bobby's name; she has a kind of Mrs. Malaprop malady, confusing words but chattering on so earnestly that we feel sympathy for her - especially when she's told that her eyebrow makeup makes her look "like a surly wench at a Renaissance Faire." Everybody's got issues: a sacroiliac that's out of whack, diabetes, cocaine habits, and the heebie-jeebies. This crowd could give anybody the heebie-jeebies.

Art Sligo's two sons (almost required for an intense, competitive, violent American family drama) are both very smart and very cruel in very different ways. Kyle (the terrific Sam Sherburne) is the seemingly sane if spiteful one, always on a slow boil; he is pitted against his degenerate brother, Victor (the terrifyingly louche and despairing Allen Radway, whose performance anchors the show). The brothers' girlfriends (Francesca Piccioni and Ginger Dayle) round out the cast, and their characters function mostly as expository devices.

You don't have to care or know anything about the weird and ugly world of professional wrestling to find this play both entertaining and unsettling. Russ Widdall's curtain speech (cellphones off, blah blah blah) is done in high World Wrestling Entertainment style, launching the evening on just the right mock-scary note.

American Sligo

Presented by New City Stage at the Adrienne's Skybox, 2030 Sansom St., through June 23.

Tickets: $10-$35. www.NewCityStage.org.

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