The tumultuous story of Hank and Dolores begins with a dead monkey on their kitchen table. This table, as well as the line “is he dead?” becomes a main focal point of the play, “The Dead Monkey.”
“The Dead Monkey,” written by Nick Darke and directed by Sandi Klug, is playing at the Bas Bleu Theatre through March 9.
Hank (Joseph Mauricio) and Dolores (Flavia Florezell) live in a cluttered, little beach house on the coast of California.
From scene one, Dolores’ unhappiness is apparent, and she seems to be happy about the death of the monkey. The couple’s struggles are shown by Dolores scraping for cash to pay the vet his fee. Hank bursts into the door, and although kissing Dolores passionately, he immediately asks about his monkey. From here on, it seems their entire relationship was built on the presence of the monkey, and now that it’s gone, their marriage begins to fall apart.
Mauricio is consistent with his portrayal of Hank, a greasy, ex-surfer. It is only revealed in scene four that he is now a traveling salesman. Because of his job, he must leave Dolores alone with the monkey for long periods of time. Mauricio does well showing the audience who Hank used to be, and who he has become within the fifteen years of marriage.
The first half of the play, Hank speaks in cliches and is constantly sharing with Dolores, “what I’m thinking when I’m gunnin’ down the freeway.” However, by the end of the play, this necessary comic relief is gone, leaving the audience wondering why Hank so quickly deteriorates into a mean, abusive man.
Dolores strives to bring their marriage “back to what it used to be,” and the play follows the couple for the six months of trials that follows the death of the monkey. Dolores reveals to Hank the surprising experiences she had with the monkey, but it is unknown if she is telling the truth or trying to make Hank angry until the second half of the play.
An occasional visit from the vet (Ken Benda) provides the much-needed comic relief. Benda plays a somewhat crazy vet who occasionally appears to pull Hank and Dolores out of the intensity of their solitary relationship. Although he’s only in a few scenes, Benda becomes a favorite character of the audience as an annoying, funny, bizarre and random veterinarian friend.
Florezell is successful in revealing Dolores’ dislike for the monkey, and strain to return Hank to “who he used to be.” However, the audience becomes confused if she is telling the truth or lying, and if she really loves Hank or not.
Because of inconsistencies in the script, we are never shown who she really is, and her objectives in life. This may be intentional, but it is also confusing to the audience. Dolores lived on an emotional roller coaster because of the monkey’s presence in her life. Florezell works hard to expose the “real Dolores,” but is stopped by the limitations of the script.
The chemistry between Florezell and Mauricio works well and the audience even gets a glimpse of how the couple met in a flashback at the end of the play.
Set design worked well, with a small fridge and a brown chair making the house seem realistically shabby. An orange juicer on the main table also made the set believable.
The audience is taken through the intense sexual desires of the couple to the struggles they face in reality. Dolores and Hank are never actually honest with each other unless they are drunk, and are ultimately unhappy. A realistic fight scene reveals this as well.
This play is definitely not for children or people who are uncomfortable with strong sexual scenarios and language. Although difficult to believe, this story reveals the effort in finding a balance between happiness in marriage and one’s personal life. However, the unrealistic script limits the director’s goal to reveal this fact in a believable way. n