Forget Alcoholics Anonymous. If you really want to quit drinking, see Bon Bock's three one-act plays at the Red Room Theater. Like a night of boozing, the program had both tremendous highs and embarrassing lows. But at their best, these stories of alcohol abuse should be enough to scare anyone off the sauce.
The first play, Alex Dawson's Room to Swing an Axe, is the tale of hard-core alcoholic Jack and his hanger-on drinking buddy Gaz. Appearing at opposite ends of a dark, bare stage, each took turns speaking while spotlighted. Intermittently, the light switched off one to illuminate the other, who would then continue with a different monologue. The back-and-forth effect was fascinating and unsettling. Although the subject was dark, the play nonetheless shined. With a style similar to Conor McPherson (as well as a hint of David Mamet), Dawson, who also directed, constructed a tale that was never predictable and always gutsy. As he did in his two-act Barman, Dawson sometimes chose a word for its poetic value rather than its conversational quality, and this occasionally made the play sound written rather than spoken. But Dawson can clearly fashion an involving story, and here he had two outstanding actors to tell it. Joseph Pacillo as Jack and Craig McNulty as Gaz were satisfying in both their rage and gloom throughout the 35-minute piece.
Gareth Smith's Slight of Hand was about the same length as Axe. It only felt longer. A meandering account of a family that meets to contemplate the impending death of their grandfather, the most frequent sound on stage was the rattling of cliches. When a character was confronted with a question or comment, his or her answer was usually "Whatever" or a snide obscenity; exposition was as clunky as a wooden shoe. The cast seemed as uninterested in the material as the material was uninteresting, and by the end of the piece, well, whatever.
Fortunately, Joe Taverney's The Fine Dining Acid Test ended the evening on a stronger note. A campy, over-the-top story of a shiftless boyfriend who meets his girlfriend's parents while he's under the influence of a hallucinogen, this tongue-in-cheek yarn was surprisingly good-hearted. Much of its success was due to the likable lead Michael Nathanson, who remained in complete command while appearing just slightly out of control. Along with the rest of the playful cast, Nathanson, who also directed, was flat-out fun to watch, and the piece ended much as the night had begun - with smart writing and fine acting.
A toast to Bon Bock. In a little over 90 minutes the program took
a few risks, and more often than not the risks paid off. While
not always pretty to watch, Room to Swing an Axe and The
Fine Dining Acid Test were as harsh as a shot of Wild Turkey
and as smooth as a mug of cold beer. These were two strong works,
served straight up.
(Also featuring: In Slight - Robin Dawn Arocha, Hollis
Doherty, Michael Healey, David Law, Terry Schappert, Ellen Thompson.
In Acid Test - Joe Azzarello, Jeanine Bartel, Marshall
Correro, Michael Durell, Sadie Jones.)
Room to Swing an Axe
Slight of Hand
The Fine Dining Acid Test
Return to Volume Seven, Number Twenty-seven Index
Return to Volume Seven Index
Return to Home Page
Copyright 2001 Ken Jaworowski