Tarot cards and their meaning were a running theme throughout Richard Morell's Celtic Cross, part of the 2001: Spotlight On Festival. In spite of the subtitle, the four characters on stage were not raging homophobes justifying their positions. The intention was more subtle, but the play showcased some basic problems with dramatic construction and theatrical viability. Monologues are as workable as any other dramatic conceit, but not in the crypto-realistic tone Morell adopted. And if one didn't know the Tarot, with its symbols of Swords, Cups, Pentacles, etc., it was necessary to take the four pieces (and nebulous linking material) at face value.
Brenda D. Cook, as a candidate for school board in a Colorado town called Littleton, talked with an unseen person about a long-ago school debate. The event still preys on her mind, and it brings up subconscious betrayals and long-festering angers. Unfortunately, in spite of Cook's best efforts, each item seemed to have been brought up because it was on a checklist, not because it was germane to the character. The Littleton reference resonated, but the author states in press notes that the piece was conceived and written before the Columbine shootings. It might have worked better if it had dramatic weight of its own.
Next up was Anthony Ciccotelli as a middle-aged gay man who tells his young nephew of the great passion of his life. This speech came closest to having some substance, as it at least flirted with a subtle form of homophobia (internalized loathing), but it was defeated by the direction (also by Morell). A gimmick repeated from the earlier section, with a Tarot reader (a generally inaudible Jonathan Kandel) leading the actor on stage, posing him, with the actor then starting the speech as if from a freeze frame, now became an affectation. Much meaning could be supposed by the character's carrying a copy of Helter Skelter, but whatever the writer/director intended went unexplored.
Susan Barnes Walker managed to generate some interest as a lawyer who eventually faces the meaning of what she is asked to do, but her monologue came crashing down in some unsupported and unbelievable plot twists - when it threatened to become interesting, it became preposterous. Which was too bad, because Walker worked a phone well (not an easy task), and later seemed actually to be talking to her unseen conversant (the earlier speeches seemed to be delivered to a blank space). It was an achievement that the actress carried on as if there were any meaning to the words she was saying.
Tony Hamilton, as a serial killer who serves the cause of gay rights by murdering homophobes, showed an infectious delight in describing some of his exploits, but he too was done in by the script, which brought his discourse to an end just as it seemed to be developing. The humor was a welcome relief, but the inexplicably abrupt conclusion was merely confusing. The character was called Mary Poppins, but again, that was as far as explanation went, except for the exit music, Julie Andrews's version of "A Spoonful of Sugar."
The settings and costumes (uncredited) were minimally designed but adequate, and the lighting design (Louis Lopardi) showed inklings of a flair the plays did not possess.
Set Design: 1
Lighting Design 2/Sound Design 1
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Copyright 2001 David Mackler