Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Self Defense or death of some salesmen"

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note: entire contents copyright 2001 by Joe Coyne

"Self Defense or death of some salesmen"

Playwright Carson Kreitzer
Director Vanessa Gilbert

I was at a post play discussion the other day and a professor from a major Boston University in analyzing that play's plot and its bizarre complications said that while audiences of major cities such as New York, Washington and Boston might not have familiarity with certain character types and situations (serial killers, sex deviants, abused childhoods, over sexed males), but in the South and Far West it was different. Made it sound like an everyday occurrence in the Deep South: when your daughter wanted to be chief cheerleader you geographically held the knowledge.

Jump forward to this play, "Self Defense, or the death of some salesman" and you have the prewritten made for TV life. To add to it would make it only more of a cliche. Odd Christian devotees adopting a death row prisoner, non-lesbian lovers, police officers oblivious, police officers concerned, interrogation sex, prostitutes killing and being killed, betrayal, love found, love rejected. And yes it is below the Mason Dixon Line.

"Self Defense" is the fictionalized account of Aeillen Wurnous, a Florida hitchhike prostitute who killed six formerly live white males in self defensive moves while they were trying to or had raped her. Written by Carson Kreitzer it is the third play of three preoccupations with women who have killed. The playwright tries to make sure the audience/jury is still out on the issue: is the fictionalized killer Jolene Palmer (Lynne McCollough) justified in some way or just readjusting the balance on the male female food chain. Had she wanted the play to be a more balanced discussion she could have cut down the number and extended the time (seven months). One of the police officer hangs onto the noble idea that since the white males had been under attack in Florida, the number of murdered prostitutes had gone done. Sort of like cleaner air if you hang em rather than smoke em. You leave the theater with an opinion and as a live white male mine is obvious.

Humor filters in often at the end of scenes with funny lines beyond the occurring drama. The make and model of the VCR exchanged for sex, how Jody Foster has some experience with prostitutes and could play the part in the TV movie. Too pretty, well rough her up a bit.

Ms. McCollough looks tough as Jolene. More than not having a good night's sleep, she appears rather to have been hitting the pavement for many years. When she talks of being raped you can visualize the affects. The spray inserted into body openings, the cutting off of his penis. Her report is understated with no emotion, the ability to emote lost so many years earlier when her body was less exhausted. When she rants of poison in the air during the Gulf War and of enemies in the corner of motels , its docudrama. I was glad when she climbed back into the orange prisoner outfit to know she was no longer on the lose.

Casey Seymour Kim as Lu the reticent and betraying, "more than a friend" of Jolene seems slow of speech and of foot. You could reach into her brain at times and hear her limited abilities trying to process information: she would not receive the cash for the HBO movie rights and she had turned in the only person who loved her; she would never be loved again like that.

The balance of the cast playing at multiple roles was superb. A microphone says you are a newscaster, grasping and stroking a pillar support in Victoria Secrets skimpies and you are a stripper. One character that haunts me is the forensic doctor who performs autopsies on the murdered males. She talks to herself of the many girls brought into the morgue forty years too early. She wants to say something about the balance in these new male deaths, but the words just can't form.

The stage at Perishable for this production was turned sideways and the audience was looking down as if on a cock fight in a darkened barn. There were television monitors you could look at, but the action was on the narrow stage spotted with a gurney and some tables and chairs. While it was sparse in materials it was not so in images. You are in the courtroom with the raising of a hand over an air bible. As the police hand Lu some Chettoes and a can of Sunkist, the desk becomes the interrogation room. Both Monica Shinn who designed the set as well as the director, Vanessa Gilbert give us another gulp of "hard to be indifferent" quality theater at the Perishable.

Joe Coyne

"Self Defense, or the death of some salesmen" (3 November - 1 December)
95 Empire Street, PROVIDENCE, RI
1 (401) 331-2695

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