Vital Signs is the Vital Theatre Company's five-week new-plays series. Week three offered a first-rate production of the three plays offered. Although the writing was a mixed bag, the evening offered a varied array of high comedy, camp, and drama.
Irish Soda Bread, by Maggie McLaughlin, is about two sisters, Libby (Jennifer Trimble) and Anne Marie (Sarah Ireland), who after their mother's death are forced to confront each other and deal with another life-threatening situation. The play offered some moments of beauty and clarity among a lot of clumsy technique. For instance, the characters tell each other things they should already know, presumably for the audience's benefit. If the play were cleaned up and the revelation near the play's conclusion brought in earlier, perhaps it would have been easier to take. As is, the play didn't come across as much more than a soap opera. Regardless, the acting was sensational: both Ireland and Trimble were honest and radiant actresses, who gave their all. Director Dennis Schebetta directed with a lucid and steady hand, giving the play moments of power the writing sometimes lacked.
Long Distance, by Jane Shepard, is tightly written and well observed. Roy (Stewart Clarke) meets up with Fatima Fartaway, a girl he knew in the third grade. She harbored a crush on him many years ago. He secretly liked her too. The play is witty, very moving, and doesn't overstay its welcome. Stewart Clarke gave an uncanny performance as the boy caught in a man's body who talks to imaginary friends. As directed by the skilful Frank Pisco, the play's humanity was never sacrificed for a cheap laugh.
Love Labor's Won, by Dennis Schebetta, was a lot of fun but much too long, with too much high jinks for even its premise. Taking from several of Shakespeare's plays such as Twelfth Night, Romeo and Juliet, etc., Schebetta fashions a sometimes witty homage to Bill S. If the play took its lunacy seriously, Love Labor's Won may have stood stronger than it does. Many of the jokes seem too "in," and a lot of the comedy seemed forced. But when it worked, it went like gangbusters. The talented director Scott C. Embler led a sterling cast headed by Eugenie Bagur, Patrick Burchill, Marcello Cabezas, Jack Cleary, Bryan Grossbauer, Andrew Grusetski, and Jessica Russo in a campy rendition of the Bard.
The lights by Michael Schloegl were terrific, the uncredited set was adequate, and the costumes, by Stefanie Sowa, were excellent.
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Copyright 2000 Andrés J. Wrath