15 April --- I have been disappointing people right and left for over a week now --- missing shows I'd promised to see; seeing five Good Shows I have yet to write a word about; and watching sections of The Mirror clog with outdated material I haven't had time to remove; and sleeping and coughing through a bad cold instead of doing the work. But The Marathon is something special. (I mean The REAL Marathon; not that little footrace that just started out in the suburbs.) It was bigger, longer, BETTER this year than it has ever been, and I will spend the day trying to give some brief notes about the fifty ten-minute plays I saw yesterday. It was one hell of a day!
But first I want to recognize the heroic work of the backstage crews. On the two separate stages in The Boston Playwrights' Theatre they got Five Different Plays up and running each hour beginning at noon, and at 10 p.m. the festival closed only Five Minutes Late! I salute all the lights-operators, sound-operators, stage-hands, stage-managers, house-managers, go-fers, and the people who made certain traffic in the hall moved smoothly and that all the busy techies were Forced to Eat and Drink during their busy day. Let's hear it for the terribly important people who never get to take a bow!
First let me acknowledge my human failings: A few of the plays left me either cold or confused. In fact, when I read the titles of two --- SUNDAY MORNING by Susan Leonard, with Gwyneth Dobson and Joshua Alan, directed by Shelley Butler for The Hartford Stage Company, and GONE STONE COLD, a monologue with Jane Staab of Wheelock Family Theatre as "Rose", directed by Susan Kosoff --- my mind draws a complete blank. I hope someone who saw them --- in the 2nd/3rd and the 6th/7th hours of the festival --- will tell The Mirror what they saw.
But others are clear ... puzzles.
For instance, Ed Bullins' new play "THAT" DAY (directed by Vincent Ernest Siders for The New African Company with Akira Abaka, Thomas Grimes, Stephanie Marston-Lee and JaNine Carter), one of three "9/11" plays in the festival, seemed to me unfinished notes for a bigger play. A man desperately calling to see if his granddaughter survived the attack gets a "we don't know yet" but when asked "would you like to speak to her mother" he bitterly refuses, apparently because of an ugly divorce. The girl's alive, though covered in dust and probably emotionally scarred for life. I thought the play, and the ritual movement in which it was played carried too much freight for a mere ten minutes.
JACOB AND THE SCARECROW by Jacob Trautman (directed by Weylin Symes for Stoneham Theatre) had a surreal-expressionist feel. Nathaniel McIntyre was an accountant desperately trying to compute sheaves of bills and vouchers so they "balance" talks to the Scarecrow (John Davin) --- a Renee Magritte like-a-look in black raincoat, bowler, and bumbershoot discovered standing on the other end of his desk. The two exchanged poetic dialogue that remained, to me, interesting but enigmatic.
Deborah Lake Fortson's DEAR NELL was much more a kind of theatrical poetry, with bits out of sequence and frequent repetitions. The T.K. Productions show, directed by Ted Kazanoff , contained bits of letters and phone-calls from an American concerned about her Dutch relative (Hazel B. Jaime & Nancy Carrol) whose wife-battering husband stays free of police intervention. Celeste McClain played a translator (sometimes into Dutch, sometimes into English), Rena Baskin a witness, and June Lewin played their mother, a silent graphic image. I thought the repetitive jumble wanted to be a movie when it grows up.
In a sense, Andy Mitton's WHAT THEY CAST DOWN, directed by Andrew Sokoloff for the Mad Horse Theatre Company, might work as a film, but I think it worked even better as a bare-stage fluidly poetic slice of memory. It was the narrative of a ferris-wheel barker (Jay Piscapo) remembering a snippy 15-year-old without money (Shannon Campbell) who offered a blow-job for a ride and confided her dream of triumphs on the high trapeze. Taken, the 35-year-old instead gives her cash to buy a ticket, and is rewarded with "a cotton-candy kiss" --- only to see the uppity kid rocking her car fall from the top of the rig. J.D. Merritt added fascinating background as a bubble-blowing clown. This was a lightning-flash of beautifully played yet oddly elusive theater. Maybe it needed visuals after all....
After the festival a friend pointed out that it's easier in a ten-minute form to make successful comedy than drama. And though several of the plays here might fit equally well elsewhere, I lump them together because they seem obviously crafted for laffs.
Well, except maybe for NO, THEY'RE TALKIN' ABOUT THEY DISCOVERED A BLACK HOLE. This had Robert Antonelli and James Miles as gravediggers beginning a new one, except that one wants to quit in favor of night-school classes in order to follow his childhood dream of being an astronomer. The other insists they have a duty to bury the dead, citing the first sentence of Kafka's "Metamorphosis". What? Norman Lasca's play had several bewildering flights of scientific, philosophic and humanitarian rhetoric, only some of it played for laughs, but ultimately it just didn't compute, despite director Michael Murray's efforts for Brandeis Theatre.
Also not just a comedy was the Rough & Tumble Theatre Company's LIGHTS! CAMERA! BLAH! --- a bit from one of their group-created nonsense-syllable extravaganzas, this about making a movie. Director Dan Milstein played the cameraman, with the company's core performers Irene Daly, George Saulnier III, Tori Low, Sean Kilbridge and Kristin Baker. (Their "Adria" is at the BCA right now. Go!)
One odd little time-capsule was Newgate Theatre Company's LENIN LIVES! by Vladimir Zelevinsky, directed by Brien Lang. This had a supervisor of the Lenin Museum (Joe Mecca) discovering that their dead resident was falling apart because his minion (F. William Oaks) instead of mixing embalming fluid properly was drinking instead of mixing the necessary alcohol. When the minion is ordered to drink cyanide it's not a punishment, as he thinks, but because "You are a short, bald man with a goatee, and the committee will come to inspect the body in five minutes. Get into the coffin before you drink it!"
William Donnelley's FLIP (directed for Portland Stage Company by R.J. McCormish) had Brian Giles and Harold S. Withee arguing for ten minutes about the proper way to flip a coin. After wrangles over kind, denomination, owner and method they both call "Heads! as the coin's actually in the air, and when it comes down the blackout-line is "Oh well, two out of three!"
Industrial Theatre did Melanie Yergeau's little ELBOWLESS, directed by Chris Scully. Tim Barney played a patient contemplating a mal-practice suit because surgeon Kevin LaVelle had deprived him of the only aspect of himself that made him special and attracted women: the flesh of his adorable left elbow. Turns out the Doc plans to give himself an elbow-transplant.
In Ronan Noone's THE MUTTON BANDIT MOLLOY two Irish sheep-farmers (Ciaran Crawford & Colin Hamell) sat about embroidering rumors that their boss (Stephen Cooper) had been arrested for "strangling sheep" and excusin' one another for makin' bad puns. Come to find out he was just sleep-walking, not because he had no kids but because his wife was newly pregnant. You'd think this would be a Sugan show, but Marie Jackson directed it for QE2 Players, that was the biggest surprise of all.
There were three full-out satirical spoofs of detective genre in the festival, all of them shamelessly, deliciously ridiculous. The biggest of them was a Raymond Chandler knock-off, Ry Herman's FOUL PLAY (directed by Rachel Walshe & Erika DeRoche for Perishable Theatre Company). The shamus was Deric Bender with Stephanie Felmly his voluptuous "secretary" and Julie McGetrick, Bob Pavia and Anthony Pesare as suspected murderers of actual death-faking Mike Ryan, with exaggerated organ-splashes played at not-always-appropriate points by Carol J. Drowne.
Then in FRIEDRICHWILHELMHOHENZOLLERNSTRASSE by Jeffrey Bush (by Merrimack Repertory Theatre, directed by Charles Towers), two trench-coated men (Keith Jochim and Bob Colonna) discovered they were both British spies, each recruited by the headmaster of their old school and surrounded German agents. The dialogue here was lightning-fast in short, breathless, outlandish spurts of increasing hilarity giving no one time to think.
THE MYSTERY OF WORCESTERSHIRE MANOR cut that cast-list in half as John Kuntz unveiled a dizzying new tour de force in which he played seven characters in a dazzling take-off on Agatha Christie to show us all how a master does it. Thias was directed (Does he still Need one? He certainly USED one) by Steven Maler for Commonwealth Shakespeare Company.
Anya Weber's DESIGNATED WICCA (directed by Pet Brick's Brett Connor) was a carefully crafted comedy in which a pitcher (Ken Flott) invites the wiccan he has the hots for (Erin Bell) to exorcize the ghost causing their losing-streak, though team-mate Tom Berry has his doubts. The little gem purred along like a well-oiled clock.
THE GREATEST SINGER IN THE WORLD transformed Orpheus and Euridice into an egotistical rock-star and his ex-singer bride in Alan Brody's starkly-lit passage between hell and rebirth. He is less interested in her hope of life than in the reaction of his adoring fans when he pulls off the impossible. Yet when he deserts her for their adoration, after looking and finding her no longer beautiful, she screams after him "They'll tear you apart!" Every detail of the myth is preserved in this inventive re-creation. (Directed by Alan Brody for Pilgrim Theatre Research & Performance Cooperative, with Kermit Dunkelberg and Kim Mancuso).
In ANCHORBIMBO Robert Brustein threw together the unlikely team of Marilyn Monroe (Played by Karen MacDonald) acting as an emergency substitute anchorwoman for a CNN interview with Gen. Tommy R. Frank (Will Lebow) about whatever it is he was doing in, oh, that country with the very long name, Stan-someone or something --- flawlessly performed and directed (by David Wheeler for American Repertory Theatre)
Matthew Dryden Roland's KANSAS took off from the premise that a bland and rather odorless person (James Barton) asked a clerk (Forrest Walter) for help choosing a personal scent. ("Haven't you anything called 'Paper'? That would suit me!") He rejected the obvious choice because his brother, in remorse for having stolen his fiancee committed suicide on his wedding night --- in Kansas (the scent's name). So an emergency call summoned Wendell (Bob Saoud) the fragrance czar and scent-seller extraordinaire! Dani Snyder of Boston Theatre Works sculpted this dynamically precious tour-de-force for three inspired actors.
Theresa Rebeck spilled the beans in her ART APPRECIATION about who it was that stole the Vermeer from Lizzie Gardener's place: it was Paula Plum! Produced by Lyric Stage Company and directed by Spiro Veloudos (assisted by Shayna M. Ross), this gloriously condescending art lover reveled in the soothingly uplifting effect art has --- on its owner. Don't all great artists steal from reality to make something sublime? Why should she be any different! This was a triumph of timing, a flawless delight.
Many of the festival plays dealt with the man-woman relationship, from meet-cute to marriage to infidelity to senility --- but Jerry Bisantz crammed every possible courtship/love cliché into a ten-minute crash-course called ROMANCE 101: Girl (Kate Fitz Kelly) meets boy (Chris Mack), love-at-first-sight and coffee, where each one simply Answers all the cliché questions, and run into their old married friends (Sheila Stasack and David Wood) and his mother (Joanne Powers) appears to bless their union just as they quarrel and he leaves. Comforted by their oily waiter (Jason Yaitanes) yet still smitten she runs after him only to discover that he has discovered true love for their old friend (David Wood!) and she stands in the street all forlorn till she meets boy (Bill Mootos!) and it's love at.......curtain. (Bisantz directed for Playwrights' Platform)
The couple who meet-cute on THE TWO-FIFTEEN LOCAL (by Melinda Lopez) were a disgruntled punk-rocker plonking his unplugged electric guitar to accompany raunchy protest-lyrics that have more vindictiveness than rhyme, and a pastor's daughter on her way to being a bridesmaid --- but she Was a better player, even though she re-tuned all his out-of-tune settings, and found rhymes for all his wayward second-lines. They managed to gross each other out, but he Did ask her to play at his gig that night, so the piece ended with Her aggressive kiss of acceptance. Eric Engel directed for Publick Theatre.
The couple in THE RED SQUIRREL by George Sauer (Nathaniel McIntyre & Stacy Fischer) had already met, but her parents didn't know they lived together and he had to sleep on the veranda of their summer place. He thought he did them a favor in the night by flinging the humane-trapped pesky red squirrel into the lake to drown. Turned out she Loved the crittur, shares their Animal Rights views,and probably won't be rooming with her any more. Joe Antoun directed this neatly made situation comedy/drama for CentaStage.
There was little doubt about marriage in Jesse Kellerman's 'TILL DEATH DO US PART --- Laura Lee Latreille's fiancee drove her beau Robert Pemberton to it at breakneck speed, careening across the road at every hint he might have any doubts ... though he was a little surprised to find out the wedding would be Tomorrow. Wesley Savick directed this sardonic farce for Wellfleet Harbor Actors' Theatre.
But a marriage had just taken place in Janet Kinney's MORE THAN WHAT, an examination of post- and pre-ceremony jitters. Helen McElwain accused her bridesmaids (Alison Clear & Tanya Anderson) of making lesbian advances on the eve of her new life, especially one passionate french kiss ... which she confessed was her impulsive idea! Everyone's distraught till her husband (Patrick Zeller) demanded she demonstrate --- by kissing him! This Coyote Theatre Company production, directed by Courtney O'Connor, could easily be up with the other comedies.
The pre-marital jitters in Leslie Epstein's MAL DE MER were a teen-age son's (Man Bartlett) over the re-marriage of his mother (Charlotte Dietz) to a Frenchman (Will Lyman) whose paintings he despised. They had it out as the man rowed him far out to sea to explain the situation then, with the impasse unresolved, made him row back. All of this was a memory (Directed by Leslie Epstein for Sugan Theatre Company) for the boy, grown and an architect(Jay Blitzman), who still wondered if his step-father contemplated drowning him.
This was more a well-played vignette than a play --- or maybe a scene from a screenplay.
But the strains of living together make for strange upheavals. It was in-laws in LEFTOVERS (by Sandra Jafe, directed by Joann Breuer Green for Jewish Theatre of New England), which simulated driving by having Sheryl Dagostino and Daniel Bolton sit behind a t-v running a tape of traffic. The bone of contention was her mother-in-law insisting they use the two extra plots in their cemetery lot, while she opted for burial with Her family. He thought that was a hint that her latest check-up brought bad news, but no. In fact, nothing seemed to me conclusive or well-defined in this show.
OUTSIDE THE BOX (by Matthew Mayerchak) provided another memento mori, when the first D.I.Y. project Robert D. Murphy tried was building himself a coffin in which to get used to spending eternity with his trophies and toys and cd's (though the stereo wouldn't fit in too, of course) and snaps of his wife ... and a coupla old girl friends. Brinley Arden Vickers recommended learning to Live, not die, and turning it into an entertainment center. (Directed by Paul Melone for SpeakEasy Stage.)
The action in YOU, by Frank Shefton, beginan when a young marketing-manager (Yvonne Murphy)came back from a business trip early to find her live-in lover (Keith Mascoll) wearing her sexy pants-suit, wig, jewelry, make-up, even her thong and her perfume! Protesting it was his first and only time, he explained that as a struggling young photographer he worshiped as well as envied her, and just tried for a moment to Be her. Finally believing, she gently suggested he learn to be Himself first. Darius Williams directed for Our Place Theatre Company.
One of the few overtly didactic plays of the day was THE MIRACLE OF ZHEN ZHEN, in which Linda Button took on the problem of Americans demanding to adopt only perfect babies. Dawn Tucker played the eagerly accepting wife, Robert Dolan the dogmatically opposed husband arguing in an orphanage in China. The administrator (Teresa Huang) mused that once a child got too old to attract adopters, as the "imperfect" usually did, they ended up working in the orphanage. Her scarred face and limp proved she knew what she was talking about. Robert Dolan directed for Foothills Theatre.
But infidelity accounted for a whole spectrum of plays, the lightest of which was Kathleen Rogers' HOUSE/WIFE. In it Helen McElwain's wife, eager to move to a newer, bigger, better house discovered that her architect husband who built it is in love with their house. The House was played by a sizzlingly seductive Debra Wise, and the play ended with McElwain swiftly and nonchalantly spraying gasoline around the happy lovers and striking a match! Paul Ramsdell directed for Underground Railway Theatre Company.
Another inanimate paramour turned up in Michael Hammond's THE LAKSHMI IMPULSE when wife Karen MacDonald heard hubby Michael Hammond talking in the bathroom to --- the new night-light, which he called "Lakshmi". In this case she demanded he not only turn her off, but destroy her, and at play's end was obviously about to reward him for doing just that. Michael Hammond directed for Shakespeare & Company.
The subject turned deadly serious for two of the plays. A ring is the subject of Lisa Seymour-Terry's DIAMOND --- the ring a wife (Ramona L. Alexander) knew her husband (Michael Nurse) had, though he gave her a Cadillac instead. She talked it over with her friend (Naeema A. White-Peppers) before he came in looking for his breakfast, and their history unfolded. Ashamed of herself after a mastectomy she withdrew; the ring was a farewell gift to someone he went to for sex, knowing his wife had always yearned for a fancy car. Now the cancer is back, and terminal, and they have too little time left. Director David J. Miller of Zeitgeist Stage Company got moving performances from this cast in a play that, for all its excellent dialogue, seemed a little cramped in ten short minutes. I'd love to see it again when it grows up and expands.
Perhaps the ultimate infidelity is faced head-on by playwright M. Lynda Robinson in A NEW KIND OF LOVE. The playwright herself played a wife irate to find that bills from her husband's golfing-weekend suggested he spent it not on the links but in a hotel, and not alone. And he confessed that all that was true, but he was there indeed with his golf-buddy ... and his wife didn't yet know either. Norm Jones as the husband tried to articulate the difficult fact that, in order to be successful architect, home-owner, breadwinner, father and active head of household and happily married to the woman he loved he needed the unconditional, undemanding love of another man. Their marriage, he insisted, needed a new kind of love. The play, directed by Dawn Jenks for Gordon College Theatre, explicated the problem with sincere performances, but offered no resolution, leaving audiences to make up their own minds about it.
But the last act to be faced in any marriage is death. In Jon Lipsky's LAST RITES the scene was a hospital, Donald Lyons playing the visitor to Terry Zaroff-Evans' patient, renewing a long-lapsed love. The subtly phrased revelation --- if I heard it correctly --- was her saying he could tell her daughter at long last that he was not only her uncle, but also her father. M.J. Bruder Munafo directed this hazy little play for The Vineyard Playhouse.
Dyana Kimball directed Neil Bell's WHAT WILL I DO WHEN YOU'RE GONE? for Market Theatre, and Bobbie Steinbach gave an outstanding performance as a wife refusing to put her incontinent husband in a home. ("THIS is his home!") The play consisted in brief, bitten, bitingly harsh scenes seething with the frustration of people raging against the inevitable. ("You never loved me." "Yes I did." "You never loved me Enough!") Bill Church played a son pleading for the solution of a home while she barked angry, almost non sequitur replies, the while viciously sewing a devil-costume. June Lewin played an old friend insulted and deserted helping her at a Stop & Shop. And Ray McDavit played the failing, pitiable husband, pleading for death, dressed at last in the devil-costume with a crash-helmet with horns glued to it --- whom his wife killed with a hammer in this compressed, stunningly performed, powerful play.
Somewhat similar to this was HOMER FALLS, in which Ed Peed played a man in his dotage, in a wheel-chair complete with i.v. and catheter, parked late at night in a room with a man (Robert Murphy) with acute ulcers already complaining of noises and lights and hospital p.a. announcements keeping him from sleep. Well of course the codger was half deaf and rambling loudly (he once came face to face with Hitler, he alleged). Just as they began to bond the old man decided to go home, ripped all his entangling pipes away, tried to get up and fell on the floor. His horrified roommate summoned tardy help, tried to get up to help and fell himself. The boy bringing breakfasts (Ricardo Rodrigues) could do nothing but stare, the only nurse was horrified to hear that the team answering Code red she called in was rushing to the wrong floor with the old man slithering determinedly out the door as the play ended. Under Kevin Fennessy's expert direction (for Raven Theatrical) Tug Yourgrau's play was funny and horrifying at one and the same time.
The other major theme here was children and parents. That was the subject for Carol Korty's MOTHER & ME & THE WILD BLUE YONDER, directed by Nora Hussey of Wellesley Summer Theatre. Mother (Alice Kahn) drove her fretful daughter (Emily Coddington), continually cautioning and complaining while she Would court decapitation by lolling her head out an open window, demanding ice-cream, whining for a dip in the sea and mad because the car-sick dog couldn't come --- while the kid dreamed of freedom ... and flying. The trip merged into several, each time older, until a grown woman drove, letting her soft-eared dog loll its head out the open window, still hearing the annoying, comforting words of her mom and ... free ... flying among the clouds.
LULLABY was not a play, but a comic opera with words by G.L. Horton and music by Robert Bonotto (Directed by Melia Bensussen, assisted by Darren Evans, for Emerson Stage). In it Michelle DeLuca played a sleepless kid whose playing and straying and demanding a drinka-water kept her parents (Richard Daly & Liz Blocker) from their longed-for night of love.
Comic also was a grown-ups-playing-kids play called A BOY AND HIS BALL (Directed by Wesley Savick for C. Walsh Theatre) in which Bun-Bun (Temple Worell) and Mr. Slappy (Susan Latiff) came alive to help a precocious three-year-old find his ball. In David Rabinow's delightful fantasy Colleen Rua as a spiteful witch of a mother stole the ball in order to fill it with magic to destroy the whole world and leave her alone with Kevin Klein --- who was admirably played by Robert Pendleton. Even the Oz books were never this good!
In Laura Harrington's UNIVERSAL SOLDIER, which Danny Gidron directed for Nora Theatre Company, two soldiers trapped inside a mine-field argued about how to get out of it alive, then finally one threw something that set off an explosion. This doesn't sound like a kid's play, but both Cyrus Brooks and Adam Howe who played them were only about eight or ten years old.
And Patrick Gabridge's INSOMNIA didn't look much like a kid's play either, but in it Karen Woodward Massey played the annoyingly sleepless daughter of insomniac Rena Baskin in a delightfully crafted anthology of every sleep-depriving annoyance known to man. Melissa Wentworth directed for Out of The Blue Theatre, seeing to it every laugh was perfectly timed.
Todd Hearon's CORNROCKETS was essentially a monologue by the busily coloring Christopher T --- played by Eliza Rose Fichter in a baseball cap. She was directed by Rosemarie Ellis of The Bridge Theatre Company, and Emily Brandt and Michael Swanson provided the background sounds of parents making love in this cleverly-crafted tale of, well, maybe murder, maybe not. Truth was, young Chris had little love for his new dad, especially since the happy couple would steal away from him at the drop of a hat to do what they thought he couldn't understand. The title refers to pressured-water-propelled toys that unleashed a parachuting rocket-man at the top of every flight. Chris insists that while his parents were "busy" in the back seat of the car parked near Grand Canyon he, trying to retrieve his rocket-man, accidentally unlocked the breaks. But the fact that after the disaster he launched his Cornrocket to watch its rocket-man float all the way down toward the wreck suggests a more chilling possibility.
One play that fits none of my categories was Patrick K. Brennan's neatly wry comedy GET OUT OF MY AMERICAN WAY, directed by Rick Carpenter for TheatreZone. This was a send-up of big-business downsizing in which a Human Resources person (Birgit Huppuch) called in a programmer Jeremy Lobaugh) with the company so long he can reel off the near dozen new names it had had after every merger or take-over. She wanted to explain the lush severance-package that would sweetening his lay-off. ("Think of it as an unexpected vacation!") Of course he's pissed, insults her as a newcoming drone ("I'm a programmer. I make what we sell. What do You make?") --- only to find out she got the name wrong, it was not Jim but John she was to lay off. But, since he signed his rights away, and insulted her ... oh, And the company "You're not being laid off, Jim. You're fired!" Gorgeous toe-to-toe acting between these two here, every inch of it exciting.
A few of the shows dealt in some way with the theater business, as did THE MONKEY KING ... at least in a sense. Dan Hunter's play (directed by Wesley Savick for Boston Playwrights' Theatre) was set in Pol Pot's Cambodia, with a man (Gary Ng) returning home from Phnom Penh and interrogated by a revolutionary (Samuel Young) as to why he had such muscular legs yet such soft hands, if he really was a dealer in coconuts. The man finally admitted he was a dancer, trained his entire life to dance The Monkey King. The functionary snarled that the revolution needed no dancers, just rice farmers --- insisting they needed no doctors, either, since he could cut out intestines with the knife he wielded. The man then danced a wary young monkey as, through a curtain at back, The Monkey King himself (Ricardo Engerman) became part of the dance as the play ended.
Shawn LaCount and Mason Sand played two Hollywood screen-writer making a PITCH in Greg Lam's send-up of the movie biz (directed by Mark Vanderzee for Company One). Their intention was to cut against the prevailing wisdom to make an action-adventure epic (but with sensitivity and heart) about 9/12, except with super-heroes who would deflect that second plane, rescue everyone in the World Trade Towers, and fight back against the Real Taliban puppet-masters --- aliens from outer space! Quickly passing the ball back and forth, this dynamic duo floored everyone with this cutting-edge satire.
CARVER COMMUNITY THEATRE PRESENTS "CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF" (by Julie Phillips, directed by Adam Zahler of New Repertory Theatre) was an almost one-woman show, with Julie Perkins playing a maid trapped onstage endlessly ironing a shirt while the actor playing Brick (Mark W. Soucy) was still throwing up in the bathroom. Her thoughts (mostly on tape) reflected her attempts to deal with the predicament with any amateur's ham-handed ad libs and acting-school clichés. For that audience, it was a delicious nightmare-come-true!
For another Hollywood spoof, Kate Fitz Kelly and Birgit Huppuch came back on stage as the two finalists up for a part, in Jack Neary's neatly nuanced backstage cat-fight, THAT'S OUR MARY! (Directed by the playwright for New Century Theatre). The part, of course was Jesus' Mother in a re-make of "King of Kings" and the waiting-room cutting contest eventually turned on which actress, no longer possessing it, could claim to have lost that woman's most famous attribute at the greatest age. But because of the free-for-all, when the casting director (Andrew Dolan) came out to say neither got the part, he was inspired to ask them both back to read for Mary Magdalene
This was a delight --- two gifted actresses locked in flawlessly timed mortal combat!
I've already mentioned Ed Bullins' "THAT" DAY, but two other shows dealt with the World Trade Center disaster.
Israel Horovitz' TEN MINUTES OLDER --- actually an excerpt from his much longer film "3 Weeks in Paradise" --- was a simple monologue spoken by Ken Baltin alone on a bare stage, directed by Gloucester Stage Company's Nancy Curran Willis, with sound by Jeremy Wilson. It was simply a recounting of one man's actions and thoughts hearing about it, seeing things (like a long line of patient people ready to donate blood only hours after), and making brief comments and speculations --- yet I heard sniffles and sighing in that darkened room, and only managed by blinking them down my cheeks to see through my tears.
The other play --- GOODBUY/GOODBY was more a poetic reaction to losing someone in that disaster. Bill Lattanzi's text (Directed by Scott Edminston for Huntington Theatre Company) was for two separate actresses, each isolated in their own light, with behind them center-stage a pile of clothing. The phrases and sentences for each were repeated again and again, only occasionally covering fresh material. Eileen Nugent played a saleslady endlessly complimenting, bumping-up the purchase with reference to a coat or shoes to go with. Julie Jirousek played the bereft friend of a girl who loved to shop, loved new clothes. When she got into the dead woman's apartment, she said, she found all her credit-cards laid out "like a tarot" and taking them, signing her own name, she bought all the clothes her friend might have wanted. "That was my fraud," she said, "but I paid them all off myself and so they didn't prosecute." But she soon didn't want the clothes, didn't want to wear things to remind her, she said --- and finally she just bundled them all up and took them to the Fresh Kills land-fill where all the refuse from the disaster was, where her friend was "where I was" and suddenly she threw off her friend's coat, tore off her friend's dress to stand in her underwear feeling forever her loss, as the lights faded.
That ended the festival for me, in Studio B, just as THAT'S OUR MARY! was ending it for those in Studio A --- only five minutes behind schedule.
People everywhere were saying the level of quality for this year's festival was, everywhere, the best yet. The plays were excellently written, brilliantly acted and directed, smoothly presented just about everywhere, well-rehearsed and enthusiastically received.
For me the day felt like walking down a long corridor with a succession of doors opening, each on a whole new little universe with its own special joys.
It is true, as Bill Mootos has said, that The Marathon is by Us and for Us --- a percentage of the ever-shifting audience each hour consisted of playwrights and directors, and actors who had finished performing or were waiting still to go on --- but that means a sharply aware audience that could appreciate the excellence of what they saw, could match performances with producing companies, and could cheer their colleagues on to triumph.
Fifty-four of these plays had never been seen on stage before an audience before --- but nearly all can, and should be seen again elsewhere. And I haven't counted how many different actors showed their work in that one day. But when was the last time you saw Eileen Nugent or Karen Woodward Massey or Ken Baltin or Sheila Stasack or John Kuntz on a stage here in Boston? When did you see Paula Plum last? The Marathon showcases our best talents in the work they were born to do, and others hungry to create a role in a world premiere. It is, in a sense, Boston's Tony Awards ceremony.
And I got to see it all!
Break a leg, Everybody..........