Are stripes a sign of sin, or are they the cracks in each person's soul? Playwright/performer Sarah Hayward's Stripes: The Mystery Circus, playing at The Studio @ Cherry Lane, poses many theories during a woman's very strange audition for the circus. What ensues is a series of songs, stories, and comic bits that aim to show that life is a circus, and we're all performers in striped costumes.
Pollyhymnia, named for the Greek muse of poetry and song, believes that her life has well-prepared her for the circus. Her audition song for the role of escape artist details her escapes from many bad relationships; she also feels that she could play the juggler, as she's juggled many responsibilities.
Some bits are entertaining, such as Hayward's entrance as a nun, cloaked in an oversized headdress, who sings gravely about the dangers of striped clothing before transforming into a two-headed woman. Others feel forced, such as a scene in which Pollyhymnia dresses as a pirate and recalls a childhood sailing adventure.
Hayward showcases many characters on the margins of society who traditionally wore striped clothing. (Perhaps this is why a pirate, certainly not an ordinary circus character, receives so much stage time.) But while Stripes: The Mystery Circus benefits from an engaging performer and a unique premise, it needs more development to weave its themes together into a compelling play.
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