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Fingers and Spoons

Theatre Review by James Wilson - May 4, 2024

Pascale Roger-McKeever
Photo by Jeremy Varner
Eating disorders, adolescent trauma, motherhood, and managing an acting career are just some of the topics explored in Fingers and Spoons, the one-person show written and performed by Pascale Roger-McKeever and now playing at SoHo Playhouse. The guiding motif, though, in the play that is subtitled "The Ins and Outs of an Open Marriage" is best summed up by the writer/performer's pithy description: "Sex after 40." While Roger-McKeever should be commended for her frank and vivid descriptions of sexual roleplay, near orgasms, and depilatory practices, the evening might be considered the theatrical equivalent of an episode of "The Real Housewives of [Fill in the Blank]." That is, without the delicious snark and vicious infighting.

The narrator of Fingers and Spoons is a mother of a young boy, and she refers to herself throughout in the third person as "Mom." When her husband announces in couple's therapy that he wants to have an open marriage, Mom reluctantly acquiesces to the arrangement. With her husband in California, Mom embarks on her own sexual odyssey. At 44, she is amazed to discover her openness to new carnal opportunities and gradually cuts the emotional ties to her dysfunctional marriage. This is symbolized by a rope sculpture of a woman suspended from the flies and anchored with strings across the stage. (Josh Iacovelli is the scenic and lighting designer of the appropriately minimalist production.) Periodically, Mom severs a fastened line with scissors.

The main figure in Mom's new life is her neighbor, a 58-year-old man who indulges her sexual fantasies and is receptive to her vulnerabilities and psychological scars. The title, for instance, refers to the implements Mom used in her experiences with bulimia. The neighbor, however, is cruelly noncommittal, and when Mom develops stronger feelings for him, she is hurled into a personal tailspin.

Directed by Austin Pendleton, Roger-McKeever is an engaging and affable narrator. She delineates the details of the erotic encounters with a combination of matter-of-factness and wonderment, so there is little salaciousness and induced squirminess in the recounting. Yet, because the other characters in the chronicle are not fully drawn nor dynamically portrayed, it is difficult to be moved by the story. The men in her world, for instance, are by and large awful, so Mom comes across as a willful doormat.

There are other drawbacks. For example, there are fleeting references to Antigone (because her mother was in a Canadian community-theatre production), the death of a girlhood friend, and her notable stage performances. None of these helps clarify the narrator's actions. Also, periodic (and uncomfortably loud) cello interludes (Tanya Tomkins scored the music, and there is no sound designer credited) punctuate the scenes, giving the impression of overwrought melodrama.

As I was watching Fingers and Spoons, I couldn't help but be reminded of two other one-person shows that chart similar territory. First, I thought about Willy Russell's Shirley Valentine that played on Broadway in 1989. In that show, an unhappy, middle-aged housewife ditches her working-class British existence and finds gratification in Greece. I also recalled the brilliant Fleabag, which was presented at the SoHo Playhouse in 2019, written and performed by Phoebe Waller-Bridge. The central characters in those non-autobiographical works, with their idiosyncrasies, aching desires, and hilarious self-deprecation, ironically seem more fully realized than Mom, who developed from a sexual experience in the writer/performer's own life. Instead, not unlike the recumbent figure dangling from the ceiling, the elements of Roger-McKeever's monologue seem to be precariously tied together with bits of string and loose knots.

Fingers and Spoons
Through June 2, 2024
SoHo Playhouse, 15 Vandam Street, New York City
Tickets online and current performance schedule: