The Northern Quarter

By Alex van Warmerdam. Dir. Erwin Maas. With ensemble cast. Sanford Meisner Theater.

THIS TAKES THE CAKE Gueriera, center, is fed up with his parents.

THIS TAKES THE CAKE Gueriera, center, is fed up with his parents. Photo: Andy Keech

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>0/5

Most people think their parents are overprotective, from the toddler wearing a tricycle helmet to the 30-year-old whose mother still buys her socks. But The Northern Quarter's 45-year-old Faas (Dave Gueriera) has a leg up on all of us: His folks won't let him work, read an uncensored dictionary, or even go outside. They may dress like rosy-cheeked dolls, but if Faas starts asking questions, Mama (Heather Hollingsworth) will truss him up while Papa (Vincent van der Valk) points the gun. Certainly, these are loco parents, but they also symbolize agencies acting in loco parentis—like governments that restrict us to the status quo. "How could you want to know something that you don't know already?" asks Faas's bewildered father, and Faas's default emotions (fear and suspicion) sound as familiar as the evening news.

Alex van Warmerdam's loopy, surreal script, translated from Dutch, gives Faas a host of weird companions for his journey of self-discovery, including a painter's palette that dances and a philosophical road crew. These juicy images, rendered with low-tech aplomb by translator-director Erwin Maas, take over when the show's narrative stutters and repeats. Unfortunately, Maas has mixed luck with his actors, though Hollingsworth nails the distracted, puppetlike style beautifully. The result is a stop-and-start evening, with appealing moments surprising us out of amateurish stretches. But considering that you get a free beer when you walk in the door, this is another great excuse to go Dutch.—Helen Shaw