We’ve grown accustomed to seeing tabloid tartlets in orange jumpsuits hauled into court for drunk driving and shoplifting, but Anais von Windsor—the billionaire heiress at the center of Chelsea Marcantel’s self-serious and preachy new play—outdoes Lindsay, Paris and the others. She stands accused of murdering three ex-boyfriends. What’s more, she keeps giving interviews where she blithely confesses to the crimes, reasoning that there’s no such thing as bad press.
After initially portraying Anais (Kristen Johnson) as a sociopathic socialite, Marcantel makes an effort to complicate the picture. True, the “Malibu murderer” is publicity-hungry and something of a mean girl, but she’s also smart and her parents ignore her. Once the girl’s tenderhearted defense attorney (Kitty Mortland) starts digging into her client’s past, she finds a lonely, purposeless life full of vapid friends and monotonous partying. Ultimately, it’s a case of too much fame, too little love. If Anais is a monster, she was made by our own celebrity-obsessed culture. And in case you miss the point, Anais recites several passages from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
The poor-little-rich-girl moralizing feels a little too easy, and attempts at satire are hobbled by the fact that Marcantel displays no sense of humor. Director Jacqueline Stone stages the play as if it were a fashion show, placing the audience in rows along a runway. It’s a strong concept in theory—Anais lives as though she’s constantly on a catwalk—but in practice you’re always either craning your neck to see the actors or staring up their nostrils.