Here’s a definite novelty to the Boston Theatre scene: a husband-and-wife acting/directing/producing/playwriting team in the persons of Arthur Hennessey and Amanda Good Hennessey. Their current plays are now on display at the BCA, where one glows brighter than the other.
Announcer … Matt Hillas
The Professor … Floyd Richardson
Speaker One … Amy B. Corral
Speaker Two … Sarah Copeland Visser
Speaker Three … Josh Rollins
The Young Man … Arthur Hennessey
Anissa West … Amanda Good Hennessey
Reginald … Matt Hillas
Martha Parker … Kate Hundley
Eddie S. … Josh Rollins
Shanice; Candy; Student … Sarah Copeland Visser
Neocon … Amy B. Corral
Video Testimonials: Bill Boudo; Peter Chu; Faith Damstrom; Jessica Finch; Dave MacMillan; Heather Rumbaugh; Eunice Sim
Mr. Hennessey’s LEARN FROM THE SELF-MADE MAN is another aural/visual montage that points up what is wrong with America: rather than falling down a rabbit hole, Mr. Hennessey’s Anissa (played by Ms. Hennessey) gets caught up in self-help programs, media gurus and the toothy gleam of the Great American Nightmare. As a satirist, Mr. Hennessey, a young(ish) man, is still green; what he expresses 60 minutes into his show varies not a jot from what he expresses 10 minutes earlier (his play simply stops, not ends). The feeling that I was watching a reconstruction of Liberation! Films’ deconstruction of THE SEAGULL was reinforced by Mr. Hennessay adding a few of its victims to his cast; at least his is an original work and not the vivisection of another’s. Given a fatter budget, Mr. Hennessey might have given LEARN FROM THE SELF-MADE MAN the full multi-media treatment; here is a work that cries out for dehumanizing mise-en-scene to disguise the non-characters and cold dialogue --- instead of the production’s two small televisions, say, Anissa could confront a wall of giant talking heads seen through McLuhan’s cool fire. As A.R.T.’s multi-media PERICLES proves to its own detriment, who really listens as long as there’s something to look at?
Helen Brown … Nancy Hurlbut
Sasha Brown … Amanda Good Hennessey
Julie Davis … Kate Hundley
Ted Brown … Ron Brinn
Mark Brown … Matt Hillas
Nigel Rossi … Josh Rollins
Samson Blaker … Floyd Richardson
Cassie Brown … Irina Salimov
Bud Clarkson … Christopher Hawkins
Ms. Hennessey’s more conventional STEAMSHIP AUTHORITY, about the comings, goings and romantic entanglements of Sasha (also played by Ms. Hennessey) and her Vineyard family during Easter weekend, comes off better; ironically two of her characters sum up the play’s flaws: Helen, Sasha's mother, beamingly announces she has plenty of food for unexpected guests --- STEAMSHIP AUTHORITY’s groaning board cries out for revisions (the play is far too long); Cassie, Sasha's sister, confesses she stopped wearing contact lenses for awhile because she liked seeing Life all warm and fuzzy --- Ms. Hennessey offers sunny, conflict-free discussions throughout, and conflict, after all, is the beating heart of drama (in reality, Cassie's boyfriend would be one creepy son-of-a-bitch). The parents, in particular, are especially genial creatures, the kind that a loving child would want to keep hidden from Death; hopefully, as she matures, Ms. Hennessey will sketch in symbolic wrinkles and warts and find to her delight that her characters are still beautiful; at present, she listens, imitates and adores. She also needs to better motivate her characters’ entrances and exits --- that, too, should come with Time.
Among the actors, Amy B. Corral is a fascinating automaton (LEARN), Kate Hundley radiates warmth and intelligence as a worldly, commitment-shy woman (STEAMSHIP) and Matt Hillas, a red bear in human form, makes a loveable big brother who never quite grew up (STEAMSHIP). In LEARN, Mr. Hennessey is a jittery comic (his performing style is also green); Ms. Hennessey is more at home as the wry daughter of her own play than as the shrill mouthpiece of her husband’s vision.