DPT’s ‘Iris Malloy’ explores Lewinsky-esque issues
DETROIT, Mich. — Scandals, especially those related to sex, have become par for the course in modern day politics. So, the premise of “The Harassment of Iris Malloy” is entirely believable. Nowhere do the continuing divisions of gender and class become more blatant than in politics.
Iris (Alysia Kolascz) is a frazzled waitress/mother, who finds herself swept into the world of politics after she finds herself in the hotel room of Senator Aaron Robert Aarons (John Lepard) after he has given a campaign speech in the banquet room down below. The play, written by Zak Berkman, clearly riffs off of the female-centered scandals involving President Bill Clinton.
The rolling world premiere at the Detroit Public Theatre is directed by Geoff Button, a longtime member of the Chicago theatre community who grew up in Grosse Pointe.
It opens in the hotel room after Iris has been fetched by the Senator’s aide, George, (Ned Baker). George asks for Iris’s phone, telling her it’s protocol and before leaving asks if she has any other recording devices. How could Iris not feel apprehensive and jumpy under such circumstances? She can’t figure out why she has been summoned to the hotel room, naive young woman that she is. The senator says it’s because he saw her listening to him during his speech and he wondered what she was thinking at the time. He doesn’t come off as sleazy and as the scene goes on, he becomes more and more likable, even sympathetic.
Cut to the day after when Sticker (also played by Baker) shows up at her apartment (which she shares with her sister, Cyd (Sarah Winkler, who is also one of the founders of DPT with partners Courtney Burkett and Sara Clare Corporandy), to tell her he surreptitiously filmed her leaving the senator’s hotel room, and there’s a chance for them to all cash in big if they play their cards right. It’s ironic that the play is set in Atlantic City, since there’s a fair share of gambling going on that’s not happening in the casinos.
All of the characters are well-cast in their roles, particularly Winkler, who masterfully shows us dueling sides of Cyd — the compassionate sister and aunt versus the opportunistic rabble rouser who urges her sister to capitalize on the situation she has found herself in. She laments at one point, reminding her sister that she will be asked many hard questions. But she agrees to take care of the nephews while Iris sorts out the scandal she is the center of.
The small set is split, with one half showing the hotel room and the other half showing Iris’s ramshackle apartment and later her “safe house” where she goes after the scandal breaks. When the scene shifts, the other characters sit in the dimly lit other half. The scenes shift back and forth in time between the hotel room and the ensuing days after it. We learn how Iris’s coat got ripped and where the gold coin she keeps as a souvenir comes from.
If there’s one constant theme of the play, it’s that things are not always as they seem, and things are not black and white. The other theme is that life isn’t fair. The subject matter isn’t comedic, and the play has several dark twists and turns. It’s likely every audience member has a different takeaway, and that’s fine, because the ensuing discussions might offer even more food for thought.