Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Motel Stories"

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note: entire contents copyright 2000 by Larry Stark


"Motel Stories"

by William Donnelly
Directed by Heather McNamare

Set Design by Morgan Kaegael
Costume Design by Melissa Henry
Lighting Design by Shelley Hager
Props Design by Betsy Roe & Melissa Henry
Stage Manager Bridgit Brennan

"The Ace of Pain

Deedee..............Sharyn Waters
Alex.........................Irene Daly

"Radio Free Skokie"

Dunn..................................Kevin LaVelle
Stimmel..............................Mark Johnson
Lena.........................Donna Jean Johnson
Poole....................................David Poole

Oswald's Case"

Henry..............Shawn Patrick Twomey
Elmo.........................James Henderson
Audrey..............................Sayra Player

In every one of William Donelly's three "Motel Stories" the few people spending a night in room #9 next to the airport come there with past lives, and speak about --- even speak to, on the telephone --- other important people in those lives. And, because the Industrial Theatre gives every production intense, delicately nuanced attention to every detail, these shadowy figures' impact emerges, through hints and pauses. Whether it's a brutally abusive father, an unresponsive wife, or a philandering second husband, these remembered figures ultimately take center-stage just as much as the actors themselves.

In the simplest of Donnelly's new plays "Radio Free Skokie" Kevin LaVelle is a travelling salesman listening to a call-in program. When the local station's bored imitation of The Rushman (Mark Johnson) begins asking him direct, personal questions and arguing over the truth of his answers --- even though he never phoned in --- his original perplexity gives way to confessional response. He may have dropped into a temporary mini-dream before bedtime, but the revelations of his family in crisis remain unresolved.

In "The Ace of Pain" DeeDee (Sharyn Waters) and Alex (Irene Daly) are mother and daughter, but it's the petulantly unresponsive daughter doing most of the mothering. When she turns and unleashes both barrels of a life of resentments and criticism, is mom's silent exit to the bathroom a suicide attempt? Certainly this loudly insistent, proudly vindictive victim, repeatedly rescued by her own child, cannot face any truths about herself, can she?

In "Oswald's Case" --- last and best of this excellent trilogy --- two brothers wait for the plane-ride to a new life of freedom in Florida. Shawn Patrick Twomey's Henry has rescued his hesitant, obsessed, abused brother Elmo and plans to introduce him to joys of the good life, like his first searing sip of whiskey, his first whore. Sayra Player's Audrey "has to like you" Henry insists, but James Henderson's bewildered reaction to his first kiss is to reveal what's in their one, heavy suitcase. Suddenly all the hints and quirks and oddities in the play add up to a crashing climax.

Director Heather McNamara has seen to it that those hints and quirks and oddities in all of Donnelly's plays come to the viewing minds as half-understood subtleties waiting like verbal or physical land-mines to explode into eventual clarity. Details everywhere --- as is always true in this company's careful work --- are lovingly, deftly relevant. Morgan Kaegael's impersonally drab motel room changes only the pictures on its walls, but the bed could indeed be rife with bugs as DeeDee insists, or the room could be a first step to freedom as Henry hopes. It's all in the details --- like why Elmo over-flushes and obsessively asks where the water goes; like DeeDee's first smile when the husband she swears she should have murdered calls; like the overweight salesman's insistence that the no-fat chocolate pudding he's eating is an unusual self-treat.

This is turning into a great season for original plays and, thanks to the combined efforts of the entire company William Donnelly has worked with as Playwright in Residence for four productive years, these plays, particularly "Oswald's Case", can stand tall in good company. The Industrial Theatre deserves the sell-out crowd it has rarely and unfairly achieved in the past. Book a ticket while you still can.

Love,
===Anon.


"Motel Stories" (till 21 October)
INDUSTRIAL THEATRE
Leverett Old Library Theatre, Harvard University campus, Mill Street, CAMBRIDGE
1(617) 496-2222


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