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December 5, 2016
Review: Alligator
Credit: Heather Phelps-Lipton

All of the characters in Alligator are lost. Not geographically, but emotionally, each of them simply wandering the Earth hoping to collide against someone who will steer them towards the right path, or at least the one more livable. Twin siblings Ty (Dakota Granados) and Emerald (Lindsay Rico) were orphaned as children, and now live in the Everglades where they work with alligators; he wrestles them, she dances for them. Ty dreams of escaping with his best friend, local jock, hypermasculine, Danny (Julian Elijah Martinez) and living the kind of life one used to see in hip hop videos of the early aughts, but how can she leave his sister all alone? Things begin to look up for Emerald when she meets Lucy (Talene Monahon) a mysterious drifter who becomes obsessed with her, and desperately wishes to be her friend, constantly bribing her with the whiskey she needs to perform her dance. We also meet idealistic Merick (Samuel H. Levine) who is about to go to boot camp, and wishes nothing else than to marry his sweetheart Diane (Lexi Lapp) but will their innocence be able to survive in this humid hellscape?

During its first act, the play by Hilary Bettis, wanders like its characters; is it trying to be a drama, satire, very dark comedy, a Peter Pan allegory in which adult children try to avoid the stress of adulthood by relying on drugs, violence and sex to escape the pain? Indeed during the first part, which runs slightly longer than it should, the audience is subjected to, rather than enlightened by, the tribulations of characters who not only fail to see a way out of their misery, but also seem to relish in it like the title reptiles do in the muddy waters of a swamp. What the playwright reveals in the stunning second half then, is that in fact time (just like in Peter Pan) is the alligator coming to swallow all of these characters in one bite.

Alligator is by no means a story of hope, instead it seeks to show us the lives of people we otherwise wouldn’t think about, the same disenchanted, disillusioned people whom the system has failed so often, that they live by their own rules. Animal carcasses designed by the brilliant Jessica Scott abound, and serve as memento moris, these characters can’t fear death when they are already surrounded by it daily. So what does one fear when mortality is a lurking, immediate promise? Here is where Bettis’ larger questions lie, and while the play proves she doesn’t always have the answers, audience members come out in a daze, will they care more about the swamp as they leave the theater, or will they too relish in the comfort of not being like any of the characters in the show?

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Written by: Jose Solis
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