note: entire contents copyright 2000 by Larry Stark
It began in Studio A with the magnificent Ken Baltin working out on first a ski-machine, then a rowing-machine and fantasizing the ski-bunny he was chasing, in Matthew Mayerchak's "The Great Outdoors" (The sly grin over his rowing back as he obviously glimpsed the same lady in a single scull at fadeout was heavenly!), and it ended there with six marathoners of various ages replaying all of life and death and a footrace in only ten minutes in Israel Horovitz' "The Great Labor Day Classic" --- but in Studio B it began with Richard Snee (with playwrights Melinda Lopez and John Kuntz in supporting roles) trying to deal with death and bureaucracy and love in "The First Day" by Theresa Rebeck, and ended with John Kuntz' gorgeously bittersweet loveletter to live theater "Claire" done in one by Paula Plum. I do think I had the best seat (third row stage-right aisle) because I got to see Mr. & Mrs. Theatre In Boston book-ending ten hours of sublimely stunning theater played before an ever-changing s.r.o. audience who, along with me, loved every single minute of it. Ya shoulda been there!!!
There were two other solo shows. In Rosanna Yamagiwa Alfaro's "A Russian Tea Party" ten-year-old Eliza Rose Fichter revealed a shocking sibling rivalry by pretending to talk to her dolls --- and got the first standing-o of the day --- and Cyndi Freeman revealed her free spirit in one of her trademark rapid-fire personal experience monologues.
There were two plays about couples in bed. In Ginger Lazarus' "Arrhythmia" the lovely Kippy Goldfarb tried to convince the married surgeon she sleeps with (John Porell) that her heart is more than a mere organ. In "The Brave" by James Dalglish two gay men (John Andert & Chris Silva) tenderly tell each other a moving bedtime fairytale about an Indian and the beautiful white buffalo he must slay, while one of them quietly dies of AIDS in his lover's arms.
But there were four man-woman confrontations as well: Michael Bradshaw and Geralyn Horton played nonagenarians in Aidan Parkinson's "The News", he confessing he once lusted after her bridesmaid, and she that she'd done the dirty with nearly anything that moved --- but they were always true, in their fashions. In Talaya Delaney's laconic "The Three-Legged Dog" Dale Place disparages the village wastrel to his silent wife Miriam Varon who confesses to herself that he and not her husband always was the man she wanted. In Susana Ralli's "An Allergic Reaction" the bouquet Brigid O'Connor had to brawl to catch gives her reluctant two-year fiancÚ (Marc Carver) hay-fever, while in Bill Lattanzi's "Sam Spade" Will Lyman's ex war-correspondent summons courage at last to acknowledge publicly his affection for the office-romance mother of his child, played by Candice Brown.
Five of these ten-minute plays were really pieces torn from larger works, such as the stylized Egyptian "The Nubian Coronation Prologue" by Ed Bullins; "On The Menu at This Restaurant" by Brandon Toropov; a quick snatch of character-building in Lois Roach's "Benita's Choice", and a zany Civil War role/uniform switch by Laura Harrington ("Dress Right") --- all of which hinted at better, bigger things to come in their full-out versions.
The New African Company did Lisa Seymour-Terry's slice of Black life "Silk" in which a crack-crazed mother recalls her first period, first lover, first pregnancy at twelve while her thirteen-year-old daughter tries to drag her from a back alley; while the African Repertory Troupe did Alan Brody's "Moses" in which Leah (Terrie Wyche) and not Moses (Gerald C. Howard) inspired the tablets of the Law.
The ten-minute form lends itself easily to quick comedies, and there were seven here: Larry Blamire's "My Name Is Leslie" had one of three patrons waiting seven hours for a waitress who refused to come back to take anyone's orders. In "Y2-Krack'd" Jerry Bisantz had a martinet of a father drilling his bickering family for The End Of It All. Robert Macdaeg's "Woozy-Woo" speculated on a doubtful buyer slipped a sample of the seduction-drug he's not sure works. In Richard Schotter's "The Duke" two fans think they spy a famous actor trying to stay incognito. "A Dog's Life" by Michael Howard presents two dog-nappers arguing over why the dumber of them blew their cover. In "Eggs Over Albuquerque" by Andy Mitton things backfire when regulars in a restaurant convince another that he has stopped time with a clap of his hands. Andrew Clarke's "Work Makes One Free" is a macho shoot-out between one mean Mafioso and the iron negotiating lawyer he's about to deal with. "Sure Shot" by John Shea speculates on how a bright young woman assistant might ensure a guy's sperm-donating. Then in "Chekhov on Ice" Robert Brustein turns the death of the Russian playwright into a grisly consumptive coughing-fit interrupted by gag-lines.
Perhaps a notch above them were several plays that mixed their comedy with more serious bite --- or was it just that the dialogue was better written? Geralyn Horton's "Beyond Measure" had an acid ex-wife (June Lewin) telling the new wife (Maureen Keillor) that their shared spouse has, once again, moved on to younger, prettier pastures. William Donnelly's "Divorce Ribs" has a back-yard barbecuer laconically speculating that divorce ought to have some sort of ritual, the way marriage does. In "Men in Heat" Dan Yeaton suggests the dilemmas that might arise if science could join the genes of two men in vitro, and shows guys in a steam-room eyeing one another as possible sperm donors. William Cunningham's "The Do-It-Yourselfers" uses that phrase as a metaphor describing a no-nonsense workman suddenly too old to do everything himself. The ditsy, selfish hypochondriac "regular" in Sinan Unel's hospital ward in "A Peck of Dust" blithely demands constant attention, tells the young girl in the next bed her aura is turning the yellow of death, and insists everyone thinks her a little ray of warm sunshine. And then there is Harrell Dillen's romp that may be a mother's menopausal fantasy while driving her daughter up to start Harvard; that forceful patrolman doesn't really accuse her of not paying for gas and then drag her into the paddywagon for sex --- or does he?
In Lynda Robinson's "Y2K And Warm Milk" a retired couple struggle with their computer (e-mail will save so much money on phone bills) yet keep phoning cross-country and even overseas to make sure their millennium messages are really getting through, while in Jack Neary's "Alternative Life Styles" Kate Carney and Alice Duffy play two ladies of a certain age trying to explain to Patricia Till their naive fellow retiree what "hormone sexual" really means.
In Joshua White's "Spacemaker" a confident and mysterious real-estate broker promises he can make unwanted room-mates, or love-rivals, move on --- for a fee, but "No questions asked." In Janet Kenney's "Debt" a White hostage chained too far from a wounded Black bank-robber finally hears why he needed the money so desperately. And in Tug Yourgrau's "Peanuts" one of several querulous passengers suddenly realizes that this flight is actually taking their souls to the next world.
"What The Market Will Bear" by Melinda Lopez is a two-character play --- a no-nonsense agent (June Lewin) harvesting carefully selected ova for an infertile couple, and a hesitant donor (Caroline Lawton) freaking at the philosophical aspects of it all, and demanding more money to soothe her hormonal mood-swings.
Jon Lipsky's "After The Apocalypse" is also a two-character play, with an old movie director (Gerry Yukevich) trying to coax his most successful star --- and ex mistress --- back out of retirement for one last epic film.
And that's forty new plays by forty new playwrights, done by forty local theater companies from as far away as Providence, Portsmouth, Martha's Vineyard, Newton, Cambridge, and the Boston Center for The Arts. The Playwrights' Theatre's Kate Snodgrass oversaw a genuine organizational miracle that saw four plays every hour done first in one studio, then in the other, with a quick crew setting and striking like clockwork, and boasting a program with a sentence of description for every play, a bio for every playwright, and a description for every company involved, plus a party after that had many of the six or seven hundred people who saw shows beaming incredulously at the spectacle, and raising more than $13,000 for The Children's AIDS Program.
This event signals the fact that theater is finally coming of age here in Boston. It proves that the theater community can co-operate for the benefit of everyone, and that theater is indeed alive and well on all the ninety or more stages in the city. Despite short rehearsal times, and a vast army of talented performers doing plays in their own theatres, this Spring festival kept an enthusiastic standing-room audience enthralled and delighted through ten uninterrupted hours of excellence.
Man, you really shoulda been there!