By Madeline Schulman
Two’s company and three’s a crowd, but three clever women equal Villainous Company in Victor L. Kahn’s twisty, amusing play, the latest production at New Jersey Rep.
Jessica Parks’s set this time is a sleek suburban living room. The main feature is glass shelving displaying so many objets d’art that the house looks more like a museum. After a nice special effects lightning and rain storm, beautiful, chic Claire (Pheonix Vaughn) enters. She hangs up her rain coat, sets her burglar alarm, and starts to look through her packages. Catastrophe! The most important item is missing!
While Claire is phoning to the store, being shunted from one unhelpful employee to another, her doorbell rings, and there stands Tracy (Melissa Macleod Herion), who has braved the rain to deliver the missing parcel personally. Problem solved – but a bigger problem is beginning.
Tracy makes herself at home without waiting for an invitation. She won’t take any suggestions about leaving, and her conversation makes it clear that she has encyclopedic knowledge of Claire’s every movement. It appears that Claire has a very dedicated stalker.
To reveal anything that happens after that would spoil the suspense and surprise of the clever plot, except to say that Claire and Tracy are joined by the final member of the trio, Joanna (Corey Tazmania), at a very interesting point in the conversation. Tracy has already name-checked Joanna, who has her own key to Claire’s house, so obviously the ladies are important to each other. But is their connection business, social, or some of each?
Long-time New Jersey Rep attendees will recognize the meeting of Pheonix Vaughn and Corey Tazmania as a mini Housewives of Mannheim reunion and will be glad that the chemistry between the two is as strong as before. The three play cat and mouse, but the roles of cat and mouse keep shifting.
All three performers are excellent under SuzAnne Barabas’s direction, as Claire changes her demeanor as she reacts to revelations, Tracy goes from helpful to creepy and worse, and Joanna demonstrates that though she is outwardly very cool and composed, you do not want to get her angry. Surprises await till the very end. The company is villainous, but fun.
Villainous Company runs through June 5, with performances Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 3 and 8 p.m.; and Sundays at 2 p.m. NJ Rep is located at 179 Broadway, Long Branch. For tickets and more information, visit www.njrep.org or call 732-229-3166 .