She met him in an internet chat-room. They shared the secrets of their innermost souls for six months, and they have been longing to express them in wild unbridled sex. Now she, Margo, has flown from Portland, Oregon, to be with him, Charlie, in Philadelphia for a week, and they arrive in his startlingly dishevelled room. No sooner has he brought her here, though, than he shows no impatience for sex at all. We can see that he is lucky to have a woman this lovely in his life, but nonetheless he needs to criticise her lipstick, her nose. No nookies with him, then. Meanwhile, she soon finds that his home is not remotely as he had described, and in particular that he shares it with his hysterical-monster sister Helena and a scheming but wild lodger, Judy.
As you watch all this, you find yourself wanting to scream at poor Margo two obvious thoughts. One: this is Philadelphia’s answer to the Bates Motel, dear. Two: beat it away from this hell-hole without delay. But no: this is a play, and so she stays. The author, David Haupstchein (the programme seems unsure how to spell his surname) is described as a Chicago cult author; and a lot of his writing for Charlie, Judy and Helena is entertainingly bizarre, ghoulishly funny. The production is by Secret Life Theatre Company, which specialises in staging Haupstchein’s work: all four performances are vivid, hilarious, committed.
Those central thoughts, however, never change. Why don’t you scram, Margo? If Haupstchein was a better playwright, he would make her perpetual gullibility, her need for a boyfriend even as pathetic as this creep, into something commensurately dark. But no, she is just a nice girl from Oregon who is anxious about what the folk back home will think if she does not find love. As if they would want her in this dump! She stays for all three acts – the play lasts almost two hours and a half – which is rather longer than I wish I had stayed.
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