note: entire contents copyright 2009 by Beverly Creasey
Image Theatre has produced original work by fifty local playwrights in their short four years of existence. What’s even more remarkable is that artistic director Jerry Bisantz has found a whole new audience for theater in Lowell. The Image crowd, for the most part, is not the same audience you’d find at Merrimack Rep. Bisantz literally created a theater audience out of customers at a local bar and grill. Image Theatre’s productions are staged upstairs at The Old Court, where you can nurse a beer while you watch a play in a bar about a bar with fictitious patrons, bartenders and suspicious interlopers. The latest offering at The Old Court is THE STRAIGHT LINE, written by Bisantz and directed by Andrew Wetmore.
THE STRAIGHT LINE of the title is drawn on a map by two Easterners out to explore what the West has to offer. They end up in Nebraska at a bar run by a Byronic romantic hero, a man so wounded by tragedy that he can’t let love back in his life. It’s a treat to see John Carozza on stage again after a long absence. Carozza can turn any role into gold, from repressive Tennessee Williams fare to gritty Mamet fodder. In Bisantz’ play he’s a barkeep, languishing in Nebraska pining to be elsewhere, unable to forgive himself for his brother’s death.
His love interest is a lady cop (Jennifer Ehlert) who keeps an eye on the strangers from Boston (Rick Sherburne and Bob Stachel) and on troubled locals like April Dufresne’s drug addict. The story’s heart is Carozza’s interrupted life and out-of-reach dreams. Everyone, it seems, in Ogallalah has one. The old West is represented by Peter Saati as the Native American whose pipedreams include brewing the perfect beer. Even the strangers have dreams of roaming the open road but Bisantz undercuts their story with revelations so nasty that we lose interest in them. THE STRAIGHT LINE doesn’t need Toyotas or showdowns. The lowdown on the cozy little world in that bar is all you need for a good yarn.