For ``Cats and Dogs'' (the first of this series' one-acts): in a Chinese restaurant, where you'd like to poison the waitress (brilliantly played by Ellen Mareneck), order one Annette (played with comedic dash by Anne O'Sullivan), feeling worthless and vomity, and mix with Michael (Brad Bellamy) who stutters through their hopeless blind date.
From Column B choose Thomas McHugh, Marc Romeo, Denny Bess, Rick Reardon, and Tony Tucci at the bar to toss douche bag epithets back and forth. For dessert order Michael's separated wife (Kate Skinner), who fixed up the two losers in the first place, brandishing her loutish date (Joseph Lyle Taylor), whom Annette finds attractive enough to believe he's a gardener from a past, more up-scale life.
The director, Jamie Richards, tweaked the humor high but had a lot to start with, as the author, Cherie Vogelstein, has a huge talent for delineating relationship dynamics.
The lighting (by Greg MacPherson) added drama to ``Geliebteh,'' a monologue by Howard Korder of a woman who relives the past so vividly the effect is spellbinding.
The actress, Lynn Cohen, scored the play in ways that go beyond direction. But then Matthew Penn's directorial touch nicely gave way to her pallet of actions, which painted a performance that created true believers in the theatre.
With poetic enunciation, the character recalls the time when she was a bobbin girl whose passionless father's life in the garment trade seemed to be all about work, not love or family. She even wonders if her parents loved each other.
The ending is so touching for anyone who had that kind of family that only tears could relieve the tension.
David Ives's ``Degas C'est Moi'' is a comedic trifle illustrated by an amusing slide show. Directed by Shirley Kaplan, this loopy conceit introduces a man (Donald Berman) who insists he's the dead impressionist. His wife's banality (played by Susan Greenhill) punctures his balloon, but she reinflates it when he sees her naked at the bath through Degas's eyes.
Chris Lutkin and Ilene Kristen interact with Degas as 14 different characters, among them a taxi-driver incredibly costumed (by David Kay Mickelsen) as a taxicab.
Curt Dempster directed Arthur Miller's ``Elegy for a Lady'' with the kind of fluidity he manages well in the Mamet scripts he does. Thus Christina Haag's and James Murtagh's characters finish each other's sentences as they meet and form what promises (a tad too quickly) to become, but cannot be, a lasting relationship.
Amidst the proceedings there are lovely lines such as when a man who thinks he's grown too old feels, while looking in the mirror, that ``I'm shaving my father every morning.''
Michael Allen created a notions shop (the best of his four sets) with genuine plastic cases.
The music for this play (sound by Jeffrey Taylor) was properly elegiac--except for a 60-hertz buzz.
Copyright 1996 Marshall Yaeger
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