By Hailey Nuthals, Arts Editor
Writer and director Tasha Nicole Partee set herself a high bar when she named her latest play “Mrs. Schrodinger’s Cat.” Invoking the name of one of the most iconic thought experiments of quantum physics immediately catches the eye and prepares the audience to ask more than a few questions. Her play set out to do just that during its opening night at the New York International Fringe Festival.
Set in a small town called Fayette, “Mrs. Schrodinger’s Cat” follows the events of two sets of neighbors – Myrna (Danielle Patsakos), a woman recording a video to leave as an explanation for the husband she’s leaving; and Judith (Eileen Howard), a aged landlady accompanied by her daughter Rachel (Emily Gordon Fire) visiting from her city life as a lawyer, and Judith’s three tenants, the Talbot sisters Tia, Flannery and Delphine (JC Sullivan, Amelia Huckel-Bauer and Madigan Mayberry, respectively). The latter ladies are all swept up in the latest neighborhood drama. An art exhibit opened in the local gallery showcasing photographs of locals, all taken surreptitiously through their home windows (based off of the events of the real NYC exhibit “The Neighbors” by Arne Svenson).
Their concerns bounce around: what if the “pervert” photographer lives in their neighborhood? What if the photographs are of the ladies themselves? Worse yet, what if they’re unflattering? What if all of their worst secrets, the most unattractive parts of themselves, are on display for the public to gawk at? What if their secrets, now documented, could get them arrested? Their frets then turn towards a more self-involved path when they find out that, should the photographs be of their own selves, they could potentially sue and win reparations.
While the play’s dialogue leans towards slightly clunky at times, that’s the most critical comment to be made. The acting is all convincing, and with the exception of the eye-roll-worthy gallery guide (who manages to be at once an annoying portrait of a “millennial” and a cute indulgence in modern trends), every character is unique and fleshed out. Each woman – and they’re all women, for once – has her own life, and every character is given the chance to be considered holistically and sympathetically. Moments bounce between Myrna and the other ladies in well-timed episodes.
The best part of the production lies not in the details, but the concepts it approaches. Just as Partee mentions in her director’s note, “Mrs. Schrodinger’s Cat” raises a multiplicity of questions, and offers no answers beyond those provided by the audience’s own minds. Are the moments we observe of others in their privacy more authentic than direct interactions? What are the boundaries of privacy? Can performance be authentic? How much of the “self” is performed? How much of other’s true “selves” are really our business, anyway?
It is no mind-blowing play, no work that leaves you with tear-stained cheeks, but it is a thoughtful one, and an interesting one. It is something that has clearly been made with care in every step.
“Mrs. Schrodinger’s Cat” is part of the New York International Fringe Festival. It will be performed at the Teatro SEA at the Clemente on August 18th at 9:45pm, the 21st at 5:30pm, the 23rd at 2pm, and the 26th at 7pm. Tickets can be found here.