Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Whoa, Nelly!"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


Reviews of Current Productions


entire contents copyright 1997 by Larry Stark


"Whoa Nellie!"


seven short plays by Steven Stuart

Stage Manager Kat Hopkins

SPEED DEMONS AT WORK & PLAY
Directed by Jennifer Elin

1.................................Kelly Bucher
2...........Tracy Lyn Spuria/Rebecca j. Martin
3..........................Constance C. Whalen
4...........Brent Alden Sprague/Justin Osborne
5.................................Dan DiPietro
6...................................John Barry
Copier...........................Scott Michaud

THE SPLENDED SWAMI

Swami.....Steven Stuart

P.C. COYOTE
Directed by Jennifer Elin

Ralph..........Scott Michaud
Skinny........Justin Osborne
Kitty......Rebecca J. Martin

SCENE WITH SERIAL KILLER
Directed by Steven Stuart

Psycho..........Matt Hillas
Victim........Jennifer Elin

THE UNDECIDED
Directed by Brian Triber

Sally..........Kate Reulet
Faith.....Katie Moussouris

A SPY THRILLER IN ONE REALLY SHORT ACT
Directed by Jason Reulet

X..........Michael Nurse
Y.......Arthur Hennessey

SPACE COWBOYS HITCHIN' A RIDE TO A RANCH ON MARS
Directed by Steven Stuart
Assistant Director Rich Girardi

Major Tom..........Matt Hillas
Major Jim........Steven Stuart
Space.............Dan DiPietro


Steven Stuart is a very lucky young playwright. He has a group of eighteen actors (and four directors) called "P" IS FOR PLAYERS who are eager to perform his short plays almost anywhere at the drop of a hat. They're doing seven of them at the Firedog Theatre, and with one exception they're funny as hell.

One thing Stuart likes to do is to turn actors into live- action cartoons. His "A Spy Thriller in One Really Short Act" starts with MAD Magazine's Spy vs. Spy, and adding rhymed dialog in the style of Dr. Seuss. The whole thing is a grand excuse for split-second takes and ominous postures. Played by Michael Nurse as "X (The person suspected of being a spy by Y)" and Arthur Hennessey as "Y (The person suspecting X of being a spy)" the piece ends with an intricate bit with a toy pistol that has to be seen to be believed.

"P.C. Coyote" puts two less-than-beefcake macho beasts (Scott Michaud & Justin Osborne) on a beach ogling every heavy- hootered kitten in sight like unreconstructed mudheads trying out their lame lines, only to have the only real woman on the beach (Rebecca J. Martin) call their bluff and put them down. Again, the beast-noses, exaggerated gestures and slapstick action underline all the satire.

For "Space Cowboys Hitchin' A Ride to A Ranch on Mars" Matt Hillas and Stuart himself play space-walking astronauts floating in space like Macy's Day balloons arguing over whose goof blew up their spaceship while Dan DiPietro totally swathed in black whips cartoon meteors, UFOs and hallucinations past them. "Speed Demons at Work & Play" whips six overworked devils through a Dilbert-like Office From Hell, with a copier (played by Scott Michaud) that keeps malfunctioning just when another report-on- the-report-on-the-report is overdue, while "Scene with Serial Killer" (Matt Hillas and Jennifer Ellin) and Stuart's monolog as "The Splended Swami" in comparison are more sketches than plays.

The night's one spot of "tragic relief" is "The Undecided" in which Kate Reulet plays a woman whose father lies in a terminal coma kept alive by miracle machines, while Katie Moussouris is a lifelong friend trying to help her decide to pull the plug or not.

Both halves of this bill are framed by a lone, uncredited actor playing a tractor-pull devotee whiling a lonely night away watching Steve Stuart's plays on the teevy, and the entr'act music is sound tracks from more back-to-back commercials than the mind can hold.

The Firedog Theatre, with nine photofloods for lighting and folding-chairs that put the action in your laps, is a playspace where the economy of means focuses on text. Everything the "P" IS FOR PLAYERS do could be polished and refined out of existence if time allowed. But Steve Stuart's world --- at least on this bill --- is itself a kind of cardboard-cutout cartooning of life that's right at home in this not-ready-for-prime-time setting. And, with one excellent exception, they're funny as hell.

Love,
===Anon.
(a k a Larry Stark)

"Whoa Nellie!" (7 short plays) (till 19 July)
"P" IS FOR PLAYERS
Firedog Theatre, 14 Harvard Avenue, ALLSTON
1(508)922-5109

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