Volume 74, Number 10 | July 7 - 13, 2004

Theater

WRESTLING PORCELAIN
Wreckio Ensemble
Directed by Tamera Cone
July 1-July 24
Ontological Theater
St. Mark’s Church
131 East 10th Street
(212) 352-3101.


Wrestling in the restroom

By JERRY TALLMER

ISN’T IT RICH HOW WE COMPARE? A radical lesbian college student who has had too much to drink (KARLY MAURER, left), a society wife (RANDI BERRY, center) and a drug-loving club kid (played by MICHELLE DIAZ) develop remarkable community spirit in the powder room.

It was panic time for the five young women of a theater collective called the Wreckio Ensemble.

Here they were, last summer, putting together a play out of their own improvisations about the effects of September 11, 2001, on the media — a play for which they’d booked and were committed to a performance space — when they lost their rehearsal space and were unable to proceed with the play “Desperate cases call for desperate measures,” says Tamera Cone.

What saved these five lissome lasses was the big blackout of August 14, 2003. Lights out, everything kaput from Ohio to Michigan to New York to Toronto. And a couple of million people in this city start walking home.

“Several of us during that blackout had experiences with fantastic rest-room attendants,” says Tamera Cone. Good experiences, she means. Kindly experiences.

“One attendant at a bar at 51st and Third showed me the way to the restroom with a candle,” says Randi

Berry.

“I was waiting tables in a restaurant at Seventh Avenue and 56th,” says Tamera Cone, “and the attendant there, whose name is Deedi, is a spectacular character, a strong-willed, independent American.”
The Wreckio five — all originally from Miami, all graduates of the New World School of the Arts down there — are Berry, 27, Cone, also 27, Karly Maurer, 25, Dechelle Damien, 32, and Michelle Diaz, 28. The latter three are of Cuban heritage. Berry and Cone are not. Four of them now live in Astoria. Michelle Diaz lives in Greenwich Village.

It was she who, thanks to that blackout, finally came up with the idea that bailed them out: a play set in a women’s restroom.

It is called “Wrestling Porcelain,” and it’s at the Ontological Theater at St. Mark’s Church, 131 East 10th Street, July 1 through July 24. The central character is the restroom attendant, a strong-willed 60-year-old Cuban American woman named Ceci, pronounced Sessy, but some people call her CC.

All five Wreckios wrote it, collectively, Tamera Cone directs it and handles the sound. Dechelle Damien plays Ceci — and shared a night’s work with the real-life Deedi, just the way Meryl Streep might prepare for a part. The other three members of the company play some 22 women — and one queen — who bring themselves, their needs, their wants, their attitudes, their aberrations, into that ladies’ room of an evening.

A musical score and live percussion are supplied by Tara Grieco, and the lighting is by Dimitra Kuwajima. The set and costumes are by The Five, again collectively.

So you five girls, forgive it, women, came up to New York one by one, like lemmings, to be in theater?

“Yes,” says Tamera Cone. “Except that Randi and I went to high school together, the Palm Beach County School of the Arts. We’ve known each other since we were 11.” A boy in their class was killed in a car crash one week before graduation. His name was David Recchio; ergo the Wreckio Ensemble.

All of them do everything: acting, sets, costumes, lighting, graphics. This is their fifth production. The first four were “Lysistrata,” Romulus Linney’s “Peer Gynt”-based “Gint” (twice), and, at last year’s Fringe Festival, “The Corner,” a play by Michelle Diaz “about the after-death experience — a comedy, though,” says Ms. Cone hastily.

Ms. Diaz as an actress has appeared in plays by Richard Foreman at this same Ontological Theater.

Randi Berry has a day job in a real-estate office on Park Avenue. It is there that “Wrestling Porcelain” was written, hammered out, hammered in. “They actually let us use the conference room.”

“A lot was thrown away,” says Tamera Cone. “The tough part was linking all the stories.”

Perhaps there could have been a better title than “Wrestling Porcelain.” Hey, ladies, how about “Ladies in the Dark”? . . . or (hands over ears, please) “She Stoops to Conquer.”


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