by Nikki Nime
English author and playwright Philip Ridley has written numerous children's
books, but despite its juvenile title,
The Pitchfork Disney
is not one
of them. When asked about his play, Ridley said, "It doesn't so much have its
finger on the pulse, as a razor blade. Prepare to bleed."
The Pitchfork Disney
dramatizes the lives of Presley and Haley Stray,
28-year-old twins struggling to remain children. They seldom venture outside
their house except to purchase the chocolate and sleeping pills on which they
subsist. They speak in ritualistic dialogue and fondly remember the days when
Mummy and Daddy were alive.
The twins encounter their terror of the outside world when they open the door
to Cosmo Disney, an arrogant, homophobic nightclub entertainer with a
grotesquely disfigured assistant, Pitchfork Cavalier. For most of the play,
Cosmo and the effeminate Presley converse in witty dialogue while Haley lies
asleep on the couch, sucking on a pacifier.
The first act opens with the neurotic twins bickering over chocolate and goes
nowhere. The play lacks a central plot or a message. The audience views the
lives and minds of the twins through the peephole of conversation, with
dialogue chock-full of British humor witty enough to make the audience roar. At
the same time, the play has a strong element of darkness.
The next act makes an abrupt shift. Though the first act is marked by witty
dialogue, the second weakly attempts to frighten the audience, shifting the
focus away from the characters. Although the sudden diatribes and startling
events add an element of surprise to the play, they take away from
's quintessential simplicity.
The actors breathed life into a rather static play. James Parsons, as Presley,
drew the audience into his character's mind. His posture and voice clearly
showed the audience that not all was well with his character. Parsons created a
character who was both eccentric and believable, while adding a touch of
tragedy. His poignant portrayal was the highlight of the play.
As Haley, Shannon Emerick hid in Parson's shadow. Emerick's character seemed a
bit artificial -- though obviously absorbed in her performance Emerick -- but
at the same time not very convincing. Her performance illustrated her
character's struggle with fear, but grated at times, her speech wavering from
spastic to monotonous. Emerick was tolerable only in small doses, which is why
it was helpful that she slept through most of the second act.
Alex Kilgore's very convincing performance of the unlikable Cosmo contrasted
with that of Parsons. While Parsons was working with an extremely eccentric
protagonist, Kilgore had a cookie-cutter antagonist on his hands. Kilgore
perfectly portrayed Cosmo's villainous qualities, but added a realistic
dimension by occasionally revealing a glimpse of his humanity.
Wearing a leather bondage mask, Clay Allison portrayed the silent ogre
Pitchfork Cavalier. With no lines and a very late entrance into the play,
Allison's character seemed more of a loveable misfit than a terrifying
Experienced director Rob Bundy deftly brought the cast together on stage. The
blocking and timing was well-crafted and synchronized. Though there were a few
subtle blunders, the performance as a whole was well-done.
The play's simple but effective lighting helped intensify the play, adding to
the eerie mood of the second act. The lights discreetly dimmed to leave a
spotlight on Presley or to cast a red shadow on Cosmo's face as the tension
Stages Repertory's intimate theater also added to the viewing experience, with
a seating area so small that everyone in the audience was close enough to see
the characters' breaths. The set was a house pried open to reveal a sparsely
furnished interior, furnished with oversized furniture, adding to the childlike
feel of the play.
The play was entertaining, but I somehow was left feeling unsatisfied. Perhaps
it was because of all the hype that I heard about it being a such a terrifying
show. It was dark but not disturbing, most of it merely morbid. Though not what
I had expected, the performances in
The Pitchfork Disney
enough to hold my attention.
This item appeared in the Arts & Entertainment section of the October 16, 1998 issue.