Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Rash Acts"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 2002 by Larry Stark


"Rash Acts"

by Conrad Bishop & Elizabeth Fuller

Set & Lighting Design by Daniel Bilodeau
Music by Takeo Kushir
Set Construiction by Albert Ng
House Manager Sasha Abby

"Dreamers"

Directed by Medina Mahfuz

Jen...................Jennifer Somers
Stu..................Shawn LaCount

"Doors"

Directed by Victoria Marsh

Dad...................Mason Sand
Kathy....Summer L. Williams

"Entrepreneur"

Directed by Victoria Marsh

Mrs. Botkin................... Summer L. Williams
Jerry..........................................Naheem Allah

"Dalmatian"

Directed by Medina Mahfuz

Mrs. Leonard................Sarah Shampnois
Kathy........................Alysha Jean-Charles

"Happy Anniversary"

Directed by Jessica Morrison

Ed...................Mason Sand
Bunny...........Monica Hiller

"Mis Bleep"

Directed by Lilia Levitina

Duff...................Tony Dangerfield
Cindy.......................Teresa Huang
Artie...................Mark VanDerzee

"Doom"

Directed by Mark VanDerzee

Nelly...................Julie Dapper
Jones.............Shawn LaCount
Smith.................John Dupuis

The seven tiny gems comprising "Rash Acts" were written by the same team of Conrad Bishop & Elizabeth Fuller, but they were polished to perfection by being rolled around for years by touring companies (Independent Eye and Theatre X). So the scripts Company One worked with in the little Leland Center space at the BCA were already polished. Then they gave them to five different directors, and put the result on a surprising set, and the seven resulting plays are, in a word, spectacular!

The set is a little bandbox --- designed by Daniel Bilodeau, built by Albert Ng --- framed by a line of big round vaudeville-style lights, and inside the playing-area is defined by three beige walls made of, well, rubber. I mean actors can step through slits that magically appear in what look like solid walls for entrances or exits only to have them snap together again behind them. And the playlets are equally original and surprising.

Three of them deal, in some way, with children, and with school:
In "Doors" Mason Sand plays a Dad frustrated by his three-year-old daughter (played by grown-up Summer L. Williams) who has locked herself into the bathroom and insists she doesn't know how to work the knob. The pair ring all the changes, and then suddenly reverse roles as Dad becomes an incontinent near-senile oldster needing Her help for simple bodily functions.

For "Dalmatian" Sarah Shampnois plays the vice-principal from hell telling young Alysha Jean-Charles the real truth about the education bureaucracy --- that she must have plagiarized her assigned poem because it's too good to come from a mere C-student! As in all these playlets, an air of surreal satire is deftly hinted here --- and director Medina Mahfuz adds to the effectiveness by making the child Black.

"Miss Bleep" is the most savagely satirical of these plays, with three kindergarteners (Tony Dangerfield, Teresa Huang & Mark VanDerzee) actually regimented adults browbeaten by the disembodied teacher's voice, huddled beneath their step-ladder desks where electro-shocks follow the slightest question of authority. (When repeatedly told "C-a-t" does not spell cat one kid tries "Q-u-a-t-t!") The kids all have numbers, and number three is still in the routine though he killed himself yesterday. This is a harrowingly effective glimpse into hell.

The evening opens with "Dreamers" which is a whole series of variations on the phrase "I want" --- like a thesaurus on speed! Jenifer Somers starts it lying face-down fascinated by a t-v set with its back to the audience on which sits the most perfect possible apple. When Shawn LaCount steps through the wall and the entwining couple simultaneously bite that apple, there may be a suggestion of Eden, since the t-v then goes dead with white-noise. The piece is pure abstract theatre, and LaCount's body seems made of the same rubber as the walls.

For "Happy Anniversary" the sublimely content Mason Sand and Monica Hiller find the one sand-grain in their first anniversary perfection --- who deals with the garbage --- enough to precipitate divorce. Yet even in this they are far ahead of others "...other couples would take six or seven years to break up!"

And again, Director Victoria Marsh adds to the bite of "Entrepreneur" by having a sharp Black janitor unfold his success scheme to a Black bank vice-president. He wants a loan to open a steel mill! Naheem Allah exudes mind-reading confidence that the bewildered Summer L. Williams can only stare at in respectful astonishment as he sweeps aside her every question.

The final playlet "Doom" is almost a fast-action animated cartoon with a team of salesmen stepping through the walls to bring first doom ("Your hubby, your father and your son are dead") then hope --- which can be purchased for a dollar --- to a bewildered, purple-haired housewife (Julie Dapper). John Dupuis and Shawn LaCount are dazzlingly quick with their pitches, teaming a sell that is filled with physical signals and slapstick turns that never interrupt the torrent of their swiftly persuasive words.

As a matter of fact, their hyper hype could illustrate this excellent theater-group's attitude, as summed up in the line from their program:
"Thank you for supporting Company One and passionate not-for-profit art in Boston!"

I'll drink to that!

Love,
===Anon.


"Rash Acts" (till 27 April ??)
COMPANY ONE
Leland Space, Boston Center for The Arts. 539 Tremont Street, BOSTON MA
1(617)426-2787


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