When a veteran OOB reviewer (even touted as the giver of the oobr ``Editor's Choice'' award) finds a production the most cheesy he has ever seen Off-Off-Broadway -- that theatrical strip mall of black boxes, inadequate facilities, and gloomy lighting -- it says something about the lengths people will go to put on a play in New York. And something entirely different about the shamelessness of producers and landlords in taking care of theatrical amenities.
The evening in question took place in what amounted to a rehearsal room with risers, in a four-or-five-floor walk-up. Track lighting sufficed to light the hopeful faces of the casts. (The total number of actors in the casts helped insure a good house, though, at normal OOB prices.)
``And Now ... Live from Mid-life,'' by Francine Witte, pitted three TV panelists against each other. It turned out that they were the same person at different ages -- a young woman (Hilda Hadaway), a middle-aged woman (Mirian Voetberg), and an old woman (Cheryl Moore). The winner of the contest, whose rules didn't make a whole lot of sense, would control the person's life from there in.
At the risk of listening to a broken record, hear ye that TV game shows and Twilight Zone episodes, apart or together, do not make good theatre. Performance limitations handicapped this example even more in undistinguished acting and strange casting. (Why was the middle-aged woman referred to as ``fat'' when she was skinny? Why was she tall and her younger version short? This is New York, chaps -- actors are out there who match the physical requirements, and they'll work for nothing!)
``Vira's Ring,'' by Daniel Kinch and Veronica Garvey, gave its all-woman cast (Kristina Latour, Mary Ann DeRosa, Nicole Mestres, Courtney Chandel, and Shanon Cline) more to chew on (including the scenery, had there been any).
A portrait of one of those hideous family get-togethers in which relatives, warmed by holiday cheer, dish up the family dirt on each other, this play has everything except a story line. It ends when one of the family discovers that the dirty family secret -- a theft she was silently accused of and from which she never got to clear her name --probably never took place; but she can still not clear her name. Lots of barely controlled hysteria, quietly desperate drinking, rattling family skeletons.
Jon Spano's ``Bill's Window'' has a story and tells it skillfully. In it, The New Lover arrives to tell The Old Lover that it is time to move out -- one step ahead of the interior decorator, so to speak. Daniel Tatch portrayed the old lover (Bill), deep into cocaine and just wanting to be left alone to finish his quarter-ounce, with considerable amusing panache. In between snorts, he yells out the window to a number in another apartment -- and exposes himself to get the other's attention. Barney Stein, the New Lover (Paul), was just coy enough -- before falling for Bill's attractions. Paul's slimy hypocrisy culminates in pushing Bill out the window, which shows just how far some people will go to get a larger apartment in New York. The cast, and director Lissa Moira, rose above the occasion.
Mildred Inez Lewis's ``The Wood Men'' was an obscure, undeveloped, Pinteresque tale of two actors waiting (as in The Dumbwaiter?) for ... an audition? Actors Ed Hubbard and Anthony Alluto had nowhere to take the impending menace
Copyright 1996 John Chatterton
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