When seventeen-year-old Becky comes to visit her uncle Sterling at his house in Costa Rica, it isn’t just another decadent teenage vacation. Back home, Becky is facing the consequences of a tragic drunken mishap. To get her “away from things”, her mother bundles her up and sends her off to visit her hermit of an uncle, who she hasn’t seen in years. Sterling is a long-haired hippie who spends most of his days reading, building trails in the jungle and avoiding human contact. Becky is hyper and foul-mouthed and full of secrets, and she immediately begins upsetting her uncle’s carefully ordered solitude.
Most of the action takes place in Sterling’s house, which he keeps open to the elements during the dry season, much to Becky’s horror. He puts her up on a fold-out bed in the front yard, and they discuss life, their personal histories, and what it’s like to live alone in the jungle. Sterling takes her to a “labyrinth” he built on a hill as a form of meditation - really more of a path cut into the ground - and Becky thoroughly fails to understand the gravity of the setting… at least at first.
To a certain degree, Slowgirl is comfortably predictable. When we are told early on that characters may not be telling the truth, it’s easy to assume that we will find out some percent of the truth by the end of the play. Sure enough, Becky slowly opens up about the terrible thing that happened to “Slowgirl” - given name Mary Beth - that has Becky convinced she might go to prison when she returns to the United States. Sterling has secrets of his own, of course, and the play also spends time unpacking his backstory, but he mostly serves as a foil for Becky’s manic teenage declarations.
As Becky, Molly Karrasch gets the tone and cadence of teenage speech down pat. She’s absolutely hilarious and manages to be motor-mouthed and impish while also conveying the terrible worry dragging the character back down to earth. Hyde Park Theatre artistic director Ken Webster grounds the piece with a more sedate role as her uncle Sterling, who serves as a quiet contrast to Becky and her outbursts. The play is minimal, realistic and to-the-point, and even if I did find it slightly predictable, I highly enjoyed the performances and would definitely recommend checking it out.
Slowgirl plays at Hyde Park Theatre through April 27th, 2013.
Originally published at Austin.com