Sound Operator John Gillis
Light-Board Operator, Set & Costumes Amanda Good Hennessey
Playwright, Director, Set & Costumes Art Hennessey
Composer Adam W. Roberts
Last night at the world premiere of his new comedy, Art Hennessey was in the wings trying hard not to laugh at his own jokes. The audience did that for him. Art writes sprawling, multi-scene plays that accept the contemporary world as meat for exploration, and he has often used multimedia collaboration to comment upon that world. For his new "I Go Solo" he has lashed two very different creative best-friends together in the pressure-cooker of an off-Off-Broadway production and let them battle out their offstage artistic differences. Everything about this show, from the words through this pair's stunning performance of them, sticks --- eventually --- to the point, and the play grows ever more deeply into its themes as the laughs roll on. This is "Don't Miss Theater!"
Nate Connors plays Willy, a repressed, introspective, lyrical playwright/director/producer who believes his one-man play shows his entire life. But his actor and friend Kurt, played by Robert DiNinni, is a budding stand-up comedian who keeps injecting ad-lib comedy bits into what he finally admits he thinks is a lovely but soul-less piece of boring insincerity. They are sharing a cheap motel-room (Willy in a sleeping-bag on the floor). They have known one another since Kurt carried the ball and Willy did the blocking for him back in high school, and memories and questions about their personal high-points in the final game of senior year still break into their brangles over the play and whether or what how it should be re-written.
In amongst the conflicts in this hour and a half romp, Hennessey's play opens and explores a dizzying succession of ideas that recur, bounce off one another, and finally coalesce into a breathtaking resolution --- Ideas like male-bonding, lyrical and comic theater, memory and sense-memory, performer-director squabbles, playwright-director squabbles, football, performance-highs, the playwright's ego, the actor's ego, experience versus inspiration, and how real dreams can feel. The scenes shift from on-stage to dressing-room to motel and both through time and back through time, from reality to memory to fantasy and back with the fluidity of a well-cut film, aided by Adam W. Roberts' subtle musical interludes.
Last night the energy-level and the pace of these two performers was super-high, with each cutting the other with quick quips so sharply timed they cracked like a bullwhip. Like life-long friends, neither can compromise a conviction, but neither really wants to "win" because that will end the game, ruin the friendship. Yet, as becomes obvious, they must --- and do --- find a final, exhilarating synthesis.
I don't think there was a syllable out of place the entire evening. And so I must sound a note of caution:
Three years ago, Art Hennessey presented a longer, sprawling yet cohesive serious play called "Radio Check 2330" In this very same Leland Center space at the BCA that failed to earn an IRNE-Award as the best play of the year because hardly anyone came --- not much audience, certainly not enough critics. If you, as I do, remember that play, believe me when I say this new comedy is just as good. If you don't, you have only two more weekends to rectify that error.
Producers Ed Bullins & Mort Kaplan
Choreography by Carl Thomsen
Set Designed Brynna Bloomfield
Lighting Designed by Scott Pinkney
Sound by Dewey Dellay
Costumes Designed by Janet Bobscean
Wardrobe Mistress Akiba Abaka
Stage Manager Geoffrey Savage
Louisa Lindsley..............June Lewin
Clarice johnson.........Robbie McCauley
Carter Johnson.....George Pendleton III
Amy Rockwell-Jones.......Sydelle Pittas
Mabelle McAllister.....Patricia Pellows
Martha Harper...............Alice Duffy
Enid Muller...............Lynne Moulton
Emilie...............Eliza Rose Fichter
Shirley Timmreck's "Circles of Time" is a fragile butterfly of a play, as delicate and vulnerable as her quartet of residents at the Twin Oaks Retirement Home --- women with little left but memories who know that unless forced to transfer to a nursing-home, there is only one way any of them will leave the Home. The production --- with a lovely, airy set by Brynna Bloomfield and Janet Bobscean's frilly, flowing costumes --- is an ambitious attempt by Kaplan/Bullins Productions to give these mostly Equity actors a chance to deal with ageing and death in theatrical terms.
At the center of the play is June Lewin, playing a new resident with a, what --- an obsession? a fantasy? or, perhaps, a formula, a technique for living through whatever life she has left? Act one sees her, in her first few days at the Home, as others do: from the outside. She is distant, often incoherent, and speaking at times to people only she can see. The Home's administrator (Lynne Moulton) worries that such a person will require special attention from the staff, attention a nursing-home (a warehouse for the dying) would be better able to provide.
But that staff (Robbie McCauley & George Pendleton III) --- a A Negro couple (This IS Alabama after all!) not yet ready to accept retirement --- see a special glimmer in this new resident and are willing to go the extra mile and even to hide their ministrations from an administrator who is more a bookkeeper than a person.
In act two, the three other residents in this wing (and the audience) are invited into this fantasy-world of circles in time --- or are they mere memories? lucid dreams? They are certainly healing experiences! For Patricia Pellows as a retired milliner it allows her to relive the long love-affair she had with a married man while making hats for First Ladies. It gives Sydelle Pittas, widowed by the war, a chance to tell her dead husband that he sired a lovely son. Even Alice Duffy's gruffly angry professor of English has her no-nonsense realist melt enough to admit her resentment at being the ugliest bridesmaid at all her friends' marriages.
Do they really re-live it? They certainly move and look and feel younger! Their whirling dance at midnight meetings might be the ungodly gift of an old, White Tituba --- but the exhausted quartet certainly looks brighter and better every morning after dancing all night! And all of this serves to prepare everyone for the entrance of Eliza Rose Ficter, stepping briefly through a solid pane of glass as .... well, that final mystery must be revealed only to paying customers!
"Circles of Time" is a fable teaching us all how to grow old with relaxed dignity. It's the sort of play you wish were really true. A butterfly of a play.
Why, I wonder, did the GLOBE send a hired assassin to smash it to bits with a baseball bat?
(I've heard that friends of cast-members had their interest dampen by second-thoughts after reading only that one review --- the only one that matters in Boston!) Doesn't all that effort from cast, producers, and from Director Daniel Gidron deserve to be judged on its own, instead of one warped reflection in a cracked mirror? Can't people make up Their OWN Minds anymore?
I mean, Why believe the GLOBE? Why believe even me when you can see and judge for yourselves?