The six one-acts of Pulse Ensemble's "Discovery Project" ranged from comedy to drama, from realism to poetry, and from mediocre to astounding. The program opened with Pamela Scott's Against the Rules, a satiric look at that ever-so-famous anti-feminist how-to work (directed by Marianna Loosemore). Well-deserving of a biting response, The Rules was unfortunately not outwitted by this piece, whose response amounts to such interchanges as "I don't believe in playing games to get a man." - "That's why you don't have one." Reading numerous passages from the offending book out loud stopped the play's own momentum. Al Smith (as Charlie) and Kathleen Gates (as Elizabeth) serviceably conveyed the static text.
Shifting from the domestic realism of the previous entry, Marika Dominik's Wiener Schnitzel (directed by the author) took us back into history. A newsboy (Jim Ormond) informs us that this play is based on the documentable fact that Hitler, Freud, and Lenin all frequented the same cafe. Here is a possible conversation they might have had. Bringing together various intellectual figures from history who could have met and placing them in a room has been done to far greater effect by Tom Stoppard in Travesties (Lenin, Tristan Tzara and James Joyce) and more recently by Steve Martin in Picasso at the Lapin Agile (Picasso and Einstein). Dominik's characters merely recite formulaic snippets, and no truly insightful links are forged between them. Lenin (Alan Rose) states "I am an aspiring politician. I lecture all the time." Hitler (Erik Strongbow) informs his companions that "Since it is easy to confide in a stranger, I must confess, I am a bastard;" and Freud (Arthur Lundquist) tells us "Creativity is a perpetual orgasm." Lisa Mackie as the Brunhilde waitress served to excite the lusts of the intellectuals.
Carol Holland's The Funky Fifties (directed by Ted Mornel) and Garren Small's White Shirts (directed by Chris Brady) were both thoroughly solid one-acts, each with a simple but provocative core well-developed by playwright and director. The former looked at one girl's experience of (not quite) losing her virginity. Kimberly Miles, Leila Warren, and Wendy Olson played this trio of teenagers to great effect. White Shirts took an exchange between a father (Peter Gilbert Cotton) and son (Gregg Gilmore) and examined abandonment and loss, and the fear of replaying the past. Small has a good control of information, as the audience slowly realizes the truth behind the father's life, even if some of the language is stilted.
The Gentleman Caller was the best of the dramas, as it charted a night at a singles bar, and one man's attempt to recreate his universe, if only for a night, to do something daring, and another man's attempt to prove he's master of his chosen world, a super-stud who's got all the right moves, the best lines, the best act. (Mark Evans and Arthur Lewis were superb in their opposing roles.)
But a single, masterful monologue, Evolution of God, left the above-mentioned pieces in the dust. Writer-performer Roger Bonair-Agard combined powerful imagery and masterful language in a vision of creation, as a savior evolves into hip-hop, dines on the sun's energy, tends black orchids on his grave, creates a poem of disaster, parachutes from satellites, does wheelies between thunderbolts, and defiles a woman in the sand. This vision's breadth is mind-blowing; the performer's presence, masterful.
This phenomenal piece in the midst of generic relationship dramas made the others look like mere writing exercises.
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Copyright 1998 Sarah Stevenson