Matryoshka at the Plagiarists | Theater review

The Plagiarists’ Scheherazade update falls flat.

Photograph: James DunnMatryoshka at the Plagiarists

When abducted by a serial killer, Matryoshka suggests, it’s best to stay chatty. Continuing this season’s trend of women getting tied to chairs in storefront theaters (see Jackalope’s Long Way Go Down and Tympanic’s Ruby Wilder), Gregory Peters’s limp new reimagining of One Thousand and One Nights has a woman escaping death by telling stories.

Sherry (Jessica Saxvik) isn’t the wife of the king but the latest victim of the Marrying Man (Robert Montgomery), a mass murderer who’s killed seven women. The original story of Scheherazade works because there’s an air of fantasy that makes it possible to believe she could prevent her death with captivating narratives. Switching to a contemporary setting where the killer ties women up before cutting off their appendages makes the plot impossible to swallow, especially when Sherry’s stories are as lousy as these. The tales range from slapstick comedies about scientists having their brains switched with those of mice to noir thrillers starring sister femmes fatales.

Peters’s script, which falls somewhere between bad sketch comedy and a college playwriting assignment, is referred to in press materials as a “manic gumbo.” Translation: It’s a random collection of stories that have no connection and little entertainment value, all staged by Jack Dugan Carpenter in the same exaggerated style. Like the Russian nesting dolls that give the play its name, Matryoshka offers diminishing returns with each new story.

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