Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Steamship Authority" & "Learn from The Self Made Man"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

| MARQUEE | USHER | SEATS | INTERMISSION | CURTAIN |


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 2003 by Larry Stark


"Steamship Authority"
&
"Learn from The Self Made Man"

Both Directed by by Arthur Hennessey

Set and Costume Design by Loann West
Video by Jim Barnes
Sound Design by Matt Hillas
Original Music by Adam W. Roberts

Arthur Hennessey runs the Essayons Theatre Company almost as a writing collaborative. All members of the company are encouraged to write, with periodic productions of short works as a kind of carrot to their creativity. Not only that, Hennessey's approach to his own plays is often a collaborative series of improvs on a common theme, from which he chooses and shapes what the company as a whole has explored. So his own play "Learn from the Self-Made Man" is the product of the latter style, while Amanda Good Hennessey's play "Steamship Authority" is a testament to the former policy.

"Steamship Authority"

by Amanda Good Hennessey

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 Baker............Floyd Richardson
Cassie Brown...............Irina Salimov
Bud Clarkson.........Christopher Hawkins

There are elements of old "screwball comedy" films and farce in Amanda Good Hennessey's family comedy about life on Martha's Vineyard when Easter Weekend brings the family (and a new fiance for one sister) together. Ultimately, though, it's the wittily realistic dialogue that shines most forcefully here.

The playwright plays her own heroine --- the stay-at-home sister determined to get away from her admittedly unique parents for a life on the mainland. It's not the surrounding seas but the intimacy of tiny-town life she'd like to escape. For instance, she's developed a crush on a local artist/carpenter (Floyd Richardson) only to find he's married --- and who do you suppose happens to be the handyman dad wants to build them a deck? ---Yup.

There's a delicious scene of sisterly confessions and catching-up when the parents are safely out of ear-shot and they can compare life on and off the island in honest bemusement. There's a brother oblivious of anything but his handfull of passions. The parents are distracted ( or just fuzzy-minded), and the newly-engaged sister and her spouse-to-be are coming/not-coming/coming depending on whether the weather will let them fly in from the Cape or force them onto a ferry. There's also a big bouquet (apparently from the engaged sister's long-ago-ditched ex) that is continually hidden or reappearing, since this reunion is to deal with futures, not pasts.

If this review seems chaotic, it can't hold a candle to the play it's talking of. Oddly enough, though, each surprising turn of plot seems to have a perfect if screwball logic to it, given Mrs. Hennessey's bubbly cast of odd family characters. They're like a sort of pinball-array of people bouncing in and out and off one another, and all seen mainly through the eyes of the stay-at-home sister eager to leave. If, that is, anyone can find an up-to-date steamship schedule.....

"Learn from The Self Made Man"

by Arthur Hennessey

Announcer.........................Matt Hillas
The Professor................Floyd Richardson
Speaker One.....................Amy B. Corral
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

This is the third of Arthur Hennessey's scattergun satires of modern living that I've seen. His finger is firmly on the pulse of the nation, and a video survey of people by Jim Barnes --- a series of talking-heads --- begins the play setting the parameters. That's followed by a series of Self-Help helpers delivering a series of infomercial-style pitches for their systems, books, methods, or programs that are of course "guaranteed". What gets skewered next is Seminars, with one central figure (Amanda Good Hennessey) repeatedly voicing her bewilderment. There's a Professor (Floyd Richardson) and others that bring in fresh ideas, there are bright beads of monologue or dialogue, but the progression from idea to idea remains obscure.

The acted portion of the show seemed to me as episodic as the series of video monologues that began the show --- each person's harrangue broken into bits and all of them interspersed. I wondered if the acted parts of the show would work as video bits themselves, since the flavor of infomercial hype seemed to be what was being held up for ridicule.

Ultimately, "Learn from The Self Made Man" felt like a work-in-progress --- a shishkebob in search of a sword.

Love,
===Anon.


"Steamship Authority" & "Learn from the Self-Made Man" (6 - 22 June)
ESSAYONS THEATRE COMPANY
Boston Center for The Arts, 539 Tremont Street, Boston MA
1(617)426-2787


THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

| MARQUEE | USHER | SEATS | INTERMISSION | CURTAIN |