The Fly in the Fridge

The List — 4 Stars

Siân Hickson

This is what the Fringe is all about. One ersatz stage, one stepladder, and one immensely talented performer. Karin de la Penha enacts the traumatic true story of an Orphean journey through an underworld of heroin and prostitution. At times almost unbearably painful to watch, the actress is nonetheless utterly mesmerising as she spins us a host of characters, including the eponymous fly. This is fast-moving theatre that demands audience concentration, but powerful storytelling and protean performance make this a bare-bones theatrical triumph.

‘The Fly in the Fridge’ was a semi-finalist for a FringeFirst Award.

The Scotsman — 4 Stars

August 18, 2010 – Claire Smith

The true experiences of New Yorker Emily Minowitz form the basis for this gripping piece. Karin de la Penha plays Emily, whose childish fascination with the hippy scene in Central Park in the 1970s leads to a life of prostitution and addiction.

The fly in the fridge is a metaphor for physical and psychological drug dependence. If Emily’s life is ever to be bearable she must learn to subdue the fly, to stop the interminable buzzing. Director Frank Christopher, who co-authored the script, evokes the flower children, the subculture of the brothels and the difficulties of Emily’s privileged but emotionally neglected childhood.

The fly metaphor helps avoid cliches about drug dependency and to bring Emily’s sad story to life in a way which helps the audience to understand the mind of an addict. Climbing a stepladder, de la Penha becomes the fly – furious, unreasonable, endlessly demanding, like an alien being which takes over a person’s whole life and corrupts their essential nature. De la Penha gives a mesmerising and emotional performance in which she seems to transform before our eyes to show us different stages and different characters from Emily’s life. This is a great performance, and Minowitz and Christopher’s writing sheds new light on issues which should concern us all.

Broadway Baby — 4 Stars

August 19, 2010 – Rob Hayward

In this remarkable one-woman show, Karin de la Penha plays Emily, the author of this autobiographical piece. The Fly in the Fridge tells Emily’s story of her easy slide into drugs and prostitution, a victim of the seedier side of the Sixties subculture in New York City, and of her struggle to reclaim the woman subsumed by addiction. It may be an unpromising premise, typical of the overworked misery memoir genre, but through its relentless invention and de la Penha’s captivating performance, The Fly in the Fridge surpasses all expectations.

Recounting Emily Minowitz’s story, de la Penha plays a host of characters, from Emily herself to her sister, her parents, her dealer and her pimp. In doing so shedemonstrates an astonishing range, and an enviable ability to move swiftly between extremes of emotion, from desperate to playful in a trice. Her performance is a masterclass in physical theatre, inhabiting every one of her characters with a relentless intensity, looking us straight in the eye as if daring us to avert our gaze.

The play’s most lyrical and tender moments – beacons of a fighting spirit amidst the unremitting dankness of Emily’s existence – are centered on the ‘fly’ of the title. Remembering a client – a john by any other name – who told her you could keep a fly in a refrigerator, becalmed for the stretch of its natural life, Emily thinks of her addiction as a fly inside her: always there, but quiescent against her determination to forge a more hopeful life.

The Fly in the Fridge is raw, confessional, important theatre, and every strained sinew of de la Penha’s performance does it perfect justice.

Original article

THREEWEEKS — 4 Stars

Karin de la Penha plays over fifteen characters in this play about addiction that follows the protagonist, Emily, through her days as a hippie child, Wall Street trader, and prostitute. For a story based on real experience, the mode of expression is oddly clichéd, but de la Penha’s performance never falls below engaging and is frequently absorbing. She has a truly impressive ear for voices and provokes some serious emotional investment from the audience, before expertly delivering a bleakly comic punch-line. Her physical interpretation of the ‘fly’ is beautifully judged and quite disturbing. Although the writing could be more imaginative, this is a brilliant example of a one- woman show.

The Stage

August 19, 2010 – Natasha Tripney

When a fly is placed in a refrigerator it doesn’t die, it slumbers. It’s still there, still alive, it just no longer buzzes. This is the metaphor used by Frank Christopher and Emily Minowitz in a play based on her experiences of addiction in seventies New York.

Minowitz spent much of her young life as a prostitute, hooked on various substances. She tried to clean up on numerous occasions but was always sucked back into the same self-destructive patterns; she could never quite the kill the fly, no matter how much she tried.

As played by Karin de la Penha, Minowitz is not a victim, but a woman aware of the consequences of her actions and yet incapable of stopping herself, incapable of saying no. She walks into the dark unaided. De la Penha conveys the shifting tone of the story, from adolescent descent through to rehab and relapse; each time she fails and falls, she picks herself up again, continues.

The show does not condemn nor does it make excuses for Minowitz’s behaviour and the writing has the fluctuating, uneven texture of something drawn directly from life. But while it does not shy away from the ugliness, it is also not unrelentingly grim. There is hope and humour in there too.

Original article

NY Times

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