As there are so many incredible shows on offer at the Prague Fringe, it’s easy to see how you would miss one in order to see another, or have to choose between one Divadlo and the next. However, there are no excuses for missing Susan McCully’s ‘Inexcusable Fantasies.’
Featuring the talents of the aforementioned Ms. McCully and the versatile Rachel Hirshorn, this smart, keenly delivered two-women act is a bittersweet journey through feminism, sexuality, desire, social and parental pressures, maintaining ones allure past A Certain Age, declining vision, and the magnetic attraction of all things Martha Stewart.
Never afraid to break the fourth wall, McCully begins by reflecting on a very real, and yet appropriately metaphorical, eye condition that threatens her sight and her way of life. With intelligence, humour, and a bit of self-deprecation, we are allowed to hear the innermost thought and passions of a woman who has not only stayed true to herself, but even paid a price (socially) for it.
Her monologue on the metaphor of sight is both fluid and meaningful. For a star who means to shock or belabour a point, this could have been a typical diatribe, but it is to McCully’s credit that she makes her most secretive thoughts tangible, even moving, to her audience. However, McCully does not take herself too seriously and is therefore not afraid to be a bit outrageous, strike a pose in a send-up of a pin-up pose, nor is she pushing any agenda or ideology; she is telling us her life story, the ups, the downs, the things anyone, any women, can relate to. This is not to say she is not serious in her performance, on the contrary, McCully is deeply invested in her work and the captivated, responsive audience was proof of that.
Joining her as a Martha Stewart fanatic and, later on, her frustrated lover, is the boisterous, electric Hirshorn. The two first appear on stage as competing copywriters for Martha Stewart Living, the holy text for Domestic Goddess all over the United States. In this delightful and sharply comic scene, McCully is unashamed in her fanatical devotion to Saint Martha. As a figure in the overtly heterosexual world of domestic craft and cooking, McCully allows us to see a Martha serving as an icon for everyone, not just the homemakers and housewives. Hirshorn, for her part, is a joy as a slightly unhinged follower of Stewart, clutching her scrapbook and espousing all that is good and noble about Martha Stewart Living in one of the funnier monologues of the show.
We meet the two again in a bittersweet sketch were Hirshorn channels every female conservative pundit of the last decade, pushing a plan to produce genetically perfect children free from plain faces and same-sex proclivities. While darkly comic, Hirshorn embodies all those well-meaning parents who wonder why little Jane isn’t as pretty as her sister or, why Suzy seems to prefer Sally to Johnny or Bobby. It is parental love tinged with deep, barely concealed disappointment.
The final portion of the show is two profoundly contrasting scenes where McCully plays both hardcore biker chick and, later on, distracted partner mourning the loss of her favourite vibrating back massager. One tale is a moving and emotional reflection on her alcoholic grandfather and rural upbringing and the other as a woman who can’t let go of the past and is therefore jeopardizing her future. Hirshorn plays her impatient lover with ease and realistic passion.
Performing at Divadlo Kampa till the end of the Festival, missing Susan McCully and her masterpiece would be, dare I say it, inexcusable.
Rachael Collins, Prague Film & Theater Center