THE THEATER MIRROR, Boston's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willy?"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 1995 by Larry Stark

"For Want of A Name"

                         Written by Dean O'Donell

                        Directed by Kimberly Faris

                        Fran.........Leslie Arnott
                        Hal...Sean Vincent Biggins
                        Roger..........John Porell
                        Marta.........Mary Kearney
                        Everyman.........Rick Park

                         Set Design by Mick Spence
                 Costume Design by Jeffrey Sctott Burrows
                      Lighting Design by Karen Perlow
                        Stage Manager Kyle Rudgers

                        Produced for CENTASTAGE by
                 Joe Antoun, JohsnSchumacher and Tom Vance

                at THE BLACK BOX THEATRE through 24February
                        Boston Center for The Arts
                        539 Tremont Street, BOSTON

It's interesting that in Dean O'Donnell's short new play "For Want of A Name" both the department store security people and the flim-flam artists they combat refer to what they do as "a scam". It's also true that each of the three major characters here have things they would prefer not to reveal which become clear as the play unfolds. Initially a simple clash of competing obstinacies, the tense, engrossing battle spirals outward into ever new and fascnating territory.

O'Donnel has planed away inessentials until nearly every terse line of this hour and a quarter builds and illuminates the initially simple conflicts. Cop and criminal, ethical compromise and wholesale fraud, rectitude and outraged dignity, all turn eventually into obscure social games that lead to unintended disaster.

The program prints a sequence of scenes that is worse than useless. Anyone seeing the play should remember that a series of short scenes concern the interrogation of a shop-lifting suspect that proceeds through real time for about four hours. This sequence is interrupted by several other scenes which, except the last one concerning the aftermath of the interrogation, are all flash-backs to pertinent previous events. O'Donnell thus widens the awareness of conflicts and motives bit by bit as more and more background is revealed.

A young but experienced store-detective badgers and harries a suspected shop-lifter who will say nothing except "Oh, you can call me Roger if you want," while an older, inexperienced security-guard tries to learn to do her job. But the suspect is a scam-artist who'd prefer to make his young assistant/mistress go back to college, while the detectives have, each for separate reasons, initiated a brief extra-marital affair. Who gets to cast the first stone, and at whom?

Director Kimberly Faris keeps the tension taut, and gets excellent performances from the small if perhaps under-rehearsed cast. Sean Vincent Biggins has concentrated on the chief interrogator's basic insecurity, but has yet to attain all the bullying bluster and bravado with which he masks it. But Leslie Arnott captures all the aging integrity in his new assistant, and John Porell remains, through all indignities, an unflappable stone wall. Mary Kearney is youth romanticizing her fling at a life of crime, while Rick Park handles three small roles so solidly he could be three separate actors.

Still, at opening this cast was content to deliver O'Donnell's lines rather than dominate them. Centastage has found a good new script --- spare, intense, and insightful --- and the more the cast becomes comfortable with these complicated characters, the more relaxed and revealing their performances will be. There is always more to be mined out of a script as good as this.

THE THEATER MIRROR, Boston's LIVE Theater Guide