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Glenda Frank


“Fukt” by Emma-Goldman-Sherman, directed by Janice L. Goldberg
The Tank, 312 W. 36 St., 1st floor, NYC.
October 27 – November 13, 2022.
Running time 80 minutes.
Thursday, Friday, & Sunday at 7pm and Saturday at 3pm 
Tickets are $11.93 – 37.97 at 212-563-6269, www.thetanknyc.org.

Photo by Valerie Terranova.

It’s not often that a playwright can prove Shakespeare wrong, but in “Fukt” by Emma-Goldman-Sherman at The Tank, the name’s the thing, and a rose called Emma has a different scent from a rose named Barbara or even one nicknamed Bobby. These are the three faces of a woman who was sexually abused by her father and who struggles to regain agency and happiness as she comes to terms with the past. “Fukt” is funny and funky, sexy and serious, confrontational and poignant, and adeptly staged by Janice L. Goldberg, a director who deserves more attention.

The plays opens when actor Bridget Ann White – wearing slacks and a sports jacket --announces to us that she is Emma. She is join by Eileen Sugameli as Bobbie clad in a pinafore and Julia Mack as Barbara, in high boots and a short, tight leather skirt, which hides her black lace body suit. (Costumes by Cami Huebert help tell the story.) As with Paula Vogel’s “How I Learned to Drive,” Sherman eschews the chronological reveal to bring us the biodrama’s emotional high points and lets each of the characters react to them. And so the internal conflict becomes dramatic, not in artificial constructs but in clashes of perception and opinion. I don’t want to detail too much. The reveals are juicy -- horrifying or surprising. This is expert playwriting and probably cathartic, judging from the audience comments written on Post-Its attached to the theatre walls.

The villains are the parents, the predatory father who created a nightmare night life for Bobby (6-11 years old) and the confused but in-denial mother, both of whom, as portrayed as caricatures by the 3 actors. (Perhaps their chain smoking is a metaphor for a poisoned childhood.)

Bobby talks about pretending to be asleep so she is not a willing participant and having to live a daytime life by blocking all memories. She is pure victim, powerless and pitiful, but saved (as a character) by her rage. She is fearless in confronting her other selves and what she sees as their less-than-adequate compromises.

Barbara’s attempt to take control is to experiment with promiscuity and to move in with her divorced father. Julia Mack is a charismatic performer, high energy and always engaging -- with her other selves and the audience.

Emma’s change of name story is about love and acceptance as the best therapy. It’s a winning stance. Emma – the Freudian ego who modulates Barbara as id and Bobby as a loosely interpreted superego – is our moderator, who doesn’t so much celebrate her survival as offer thanks for it.

The small stage of the 60 or so seat Tank Theatre comes alive with “Fukt.” There’s a whole lot of talent in one space.

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