Jeff Tabnick’s latest play based on true accounts of kinky couple creating nursing home mayhem
As if the title alone weren’t enough to lure you to this play, there’s also the play itself.
“I Found Her Tied to My Bed,” an intelligent, wistful dark comedy about B&D with lesbian overtones, loyalty and betrayal, and murder in a nursing home, is everything theatergoers look for and often don’t find. It’s got humor and pathos; it’s vulnerable, thought-provoking, smart, hip, disturbing, quirky and edgy as hell. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde’s famous quote about cats, “I Found Her Tied to My Bed” is something of a small masterpiece.
The action begins with Beth, a nerdy 20-something nursing home aide, arriving home to confront her new “temporary” roommate Jan, a troubled and self-destructive nymphet-type who, somewhat improbably, also works at the nursing home. In Beth’s absence, Jan has been being bad—again. Given that the play uses exactly two pieces of furniture, a bed and a hospital screen, and its few props include a pack of cigarettes and a set of wrist and ankle restraints, let’s just say that a lot happens with just a little, in just an hour’s running time.
And most of it happens through the dialogue. The exchanges between the two actresses are typically clipped, and delivered in a lighthearted tone that builds tension in an efficient, almost breezy way.
In the following scene, about halfway thorough the play, Jan has tied Beth to the bed with Beth’s consent.
Jan: I won’t get caught.
Beth: I—I love my patients… You need to stop.
Jan: There’s nothing you can do to stop me.
Beth: Except on thing.
Jan: I’m not going to stop.
Beth: There is one thing I could do to make you stop.
Beth: You know.
Jan: Tell me.
Beth: The police.
In the accomplished hands of two smart and sensitive young actresses, Shannon Kirk and Talia Rubel, the characters of “good girl” Beth and “bad girl” Jan expand exponentially almost from the moment they deliver their first lines. Beth is not so good, it turns out. And Jan may or may not be so bad—you’ll have to buy a ticket to find out. On the subject of which, “I Found Her Tied to My Bed” is one of the best bargains you’re likely to find in the city. Ten dollars gets you in the door, though you better reserve in advance. One recent night, the small theater—it seats about 25—was packed despite fierce snowy weather.
This play has been extended by popular demand. Without a doubt, many of the patrons in the theater that night were there by word of mouth; it seems that the playwright and director, Jeff Tabnick, has already made a reputation for himself with such successes as “Dissatisfaction #4,” published in The Backstage Book of New American Short Plays 2005, and “Barrymore’s Body,” staged at the NYC International Fringe Festival in 2004 to sold-out audiences.
The idea for “I Found Her Tied to My Bed” was collectively arrived at, with Rubel and Kirk asking Tabnick to write something new because, in Kirk’s words, “We didn’t like what was already out there.” So the three –friends in their personal lives and former schoolmates, as well as creative collaborators—began researching old newspaper accounts for ideas.
“[Rubel and I] found this true crime story about two nurses in Ohio who were accused of murdering residents in a nursing home,” Kirk elaborated. “It’s like we were supposed to do this play. We did the research separately and came back with the same story!”
“We were drawn to it because it kind of dealt with this intense power differential between the two women,” Rubel said. “It was exciting. Fascinating. Totally creepy.”
The actresses report that in the several weeks the play has been running, reactions to have run the gamut from “screaming laughter during one entire matinee” to “shocked and quiet” to “people wanting to laugh, but they don’t think it’s right.” But one thing is consistent at every performance—long, loud applause at the end.