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Theater review by Helen Shaw
Milly Thomas’s one-woman show Dust is a contradictory experience: an attempt at explosive emotion—it climaxes with a first-person account of a suicide—that is also strangely constrained. A sensation at the Edinburgh Fringe, and well received in the West End later, it seems to have damped its fuse at the East Village’s small 4th Street Theatre.
As lights strobe and the speakers throb with low electronic tones, Alice (Thomas) wakes up on a table at the morgue. Wearing a seamed, flesh-colored bodysuit that makes her look like an unclothed doll, Alice’s spirit roams a world that is reeling from her death. As she spies on her friends and family, and flashes back to memories of desperation, Thomas switches characters—playing, say, both Alice and her boyfriend as they have terrible sex.
Alice is both furiously perverse (her first move as a ghost is to stare up her body’s vagina) and perversely furious. (“I look ready to suck a dick not be laid to rest,” she grumbles about the picture chosen for her funeral.) Everyone is witnessed at their devastated worst or their most erotically vulnerable; two separate oral sex sessions have the voyeuristic Alice nosing right into the bone zone. Thomas’s insistence that every moment be set at maximum intensity overtaxes the short show’s engines, and puts it beyond her reach as a performer. She has earnestness but not grit or power, so the play has a distant quality. It’s like watching a student give a report on a catastrophe: You know she’s talking about real suffering somewhere, but you can also sense her yearning for a grade.
4th Street Theatre (Off Broadway). By Milly Thomas. Directed by Sara Joyce. With Thomas. Running time: 1hr 15mins. No intermission.