Hunter Intro to Theatre

"Horseplay: or, The Fickle Mistress" Reviewed by Andrea Sanichar

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      Andrea Sanichar

      Performance Reflection Assignment

      THEA 101

      Section 1D02

      March 2<sup>nd</sup>, 2015

      Horseplay: or, The Fickle Mistress

      Date of Attendance: February 25<sup>th</sup>, 2015

      Venue of the Show: La Mama Ellen Stewart Theatre


      The theatrical play Horseplay: or, The Fickle Mistress is a piece which gives insight onto the audience onto the life of Adah Isaacs Menken. A majority of the playwright was told through the perspective of Adah Isaacs Menken herself, or rather, the actress who took on her role. Menken’s deception towards the audience members and her own baffled persona is emphasized through three particular scenes in the play.  The three scenes of focus include Aida’s marriage and divorce to Alexander Menken, her brief relationship with the Christian boxer, and, lastly, the scene towards the very end when she converses with her confidante, Frank, about the reasoning behind the decisions in her life.

      The first scene which instantly captivated attention was when Adah quickly entered a marriage with Alexander Menken, and just as quickly ends their marriage. The scene is far from intimate, which is ironic being that the scene depicts holy matrimony between two individuals who, supposedly, both desperately want to be with one another. The play depicts the marriage in a matter of milliseconds, just as the separation between the two is depicted. The rushed matrimony is emphasized in the play, portrayed in a satirical manner. Adah quickly meets Alexander and lies about her religion to enter the Menken family. She converts to Judaism and informs her husband that she is an actress. Although initially thrilled by her occupation, Alexander finds himself distraught as their relationship prolongs. Adah constantly lies to Alexander about her whereabouts. Instead of acting in a well reserved and professional environment, Adah was socializing with numerous men at clubs during the night. Alexander almost feels inferior to his wife because he must rely on both her and his parents to live. He somewhat loses his dignity when he realizes that his wife’s marriage to him wasn’t sincere.  The scene emphasizes great themes of superiority versus inferiority and the importance of family ties. The scene ends with Alexander’s request to end their marriage because of his wife’s presumptuous nature and incapability of choosing between their relationship and her scandalous occupational duties.

      The second scene of focus is the brief relationship between the Christian boxer named, John C. Heenan, and Adah Isaac Menken. John C. Heenan is introduced as a professional boxer with his own manager or consultant, translating and exposing his thoughts. Menken and Heenan’s relationship was also brief and filled with lies, emphasizing Menken’s need to conform and make others happy. As Adah finds out that the boxer is professional and Christian, she immediately tries to conform to satisfy him, claiming she is also Christian and emphasizing the fact that she is a successful actress. Their relationship escalates rather quickly in relation to the brevity of the scene. The two almost immediately engage in a physical relationship, eventually impregnating Adah. After the sexual encounter, the boxer is almost nowhere to be found, practically abandoning Adah and his son. As the scene ends, Adah is once again left in the dark, seeking sole compassion and company. The scene depicts Adah’s desperation to find comfort within others and her need to shape herself in order to create a better portrayal of herself.

      The third and final scene was the scene towards the very end of the play when Adah is confiding with her friend, Frank. Just as the playwright opens, the scene ends with Adah Isaac Menken on a death bed, with her companion, Frank, standing by her side. As he is intently listening to her, she explains that she lies because of the same reason others lie—to make herself happy. She attempts to explain to him why her entire life was based on so many lies. Frank’s incapability of understanding her perspective and reasoning behind her decisions illustrates Adah’s complex persona and her great difficulty in trying to have others understand her mindset.

      Horseplay: or, The Fickle Mistress succeeded in leaving its audience in awe. As the play ended, an uproar of hands clapping filled the set. The stage directors, lighting crew, actors and actresses never ceased to amaze the observers. Adah Isaac Menken died at the end of the playwright, and left the audience baffled with questions unanswered. It wasn’t difficult deciding which scenes to discuss, for these three scenes which emphasized the greatest recurring themes presented in the play. The play was lengthy, but very entertaining. It was amazing being so closely intimate with the set and the actors and actresses. The connection between the audience and the performers was always strong and present.

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