Writing a one-person play is a not-too-difficult task, as playwriting tasks go. However, writing a good one-person play is a bit more problematic. The March 31st evening performance of Womenkind VI contained examples of both well-written and not-so-well-written one-person plays.
"Eve's Diary," adapted from the writings of the great Mark Twain and performed by Gayle Stahlhuth, concerns the biblical Eve, seemingly in heaven, talking to God regarding the creation of the world and staring down at earth watching Adam kneeling by her grave. "Love Arm'd: Aphra Behn and Her Pen," written and performed by Karen Eterovich, concerns the colorful life of 17th-century English playwright, poet, spy, and convict Aphra Behn. "Explicit Evidence, Part II," written and performed by Michele Serchuk, is a collection of three poetic monologues concerning a woman having sex with a man, with another woman, and with that old standby -- herself. "This Is Where I Get Off," written by Beth Littleford and Warren Etheredge, performed by Beth Littleford, is the story of Jill, a woman who, lacking a boyfriend, is spending the night with a teddy bear and a vibrator. However, when an ex-boyfriend calls and invites himself over, Jill goes into the tale of their relationship, especially regarding their interesting sexual history.
The quality of the writing was uneven throughout. The two more successful pieces were "Love Arm'd" and "This Is Where I Get Off." Although over-long in spots, "Love Arm'd" was a very informative and entertaining work. As Aphra Behn, Karen Eterovich gave a crisp and passionate performance (and had the gumption to perform the early part of the play topless, wearing nothing but a pair of bloomers. Brava!). "This Is Where I Get Off" was the only comedy of the evening. Although tales of rotten ex-boyfriends and living the single life are not exactly new on the women's-theatre circuit, the writing of Ms. Littleford and Mr. Etheredge was witty and original. In addition, Ms. Littleford performed the role of Jill with great energy and confidence.
On the technical side, the sets, costumes, and lighting for all four shows were serviceable. Notable were the costumes in "Love Arm'd" (costume advisors Kathy Wilson, Deborah Huston, and Sarah Kimball). Both "Love Arm'd" and "Explicit Evidence, Part II" used slides projected on upstage curtains. Although the photos in "Explicit Evidence, Part II," taken by Jack R. Lindholm, were quite interesting, the layout of the One Dream Theatre made a clear viewing of any of the projections nearly impossible.
Copyright 1996 John Attanas
The actress/writers of Womenkind VI have somehow created a living Hall of Fame dedicated to the heroines of every age and clime. As Anne Hathaway (1556-1623), Yvonne Hudson molded a tender character of nobility and courage out of history's fragmentary knowledge about Shakespeare's other half.
From her first meeting with William, a man "bursting with youth and dreams," on a country lane in Stratford, Hudson caressed history's details with a loving imaginative touch -- their giddy courtship on the banks of the River Avon, William's receding hairline, his acting of kings and princes on the lawn of their home, her disagreement over "Will's choice of outcome for Romeo and Juliet," and the marital bed whose "slats creaked in love and in labor" and on which Will finally succumbed to a fever.
But Hudson reaches the heights of poetic beauty, and of her character's strength, in tragedy, into which she richly weaves Shakespeare's textual imagery. The haunting lament, "He is dead and gone, lady," of Ophelia's "mad scene" wrestles with the death of Hamnet, their only son, at age 11. And Kate's closing words of...Shrew, "Thy husband is thy lord," contend with the abandonment of Will's departure for London, and with the suspicion his exquisite love verses "perchance...were written for another."
Many of Womenkind's heroines, however, were creatures of imagination rather than history. In "Priscilla Tulip Spring is Getting Married," Elizabeth Summerlin charmed the audience into joining a woman's fantastical carriage ride through Central Park, as if on the wings of angels, where she proposes to herself.
In "Distraction From Panic," Marcy Loving reveled in the comedy of modern-day stereotypes -- including "Roz," a Jewish dame who extols the virtues of liposuction, and then confides the illicit delights of "having real sex ... in positions I never knew existed" with an Italian stud named Lorenzo. The piece nevertheless needed a stronger punchline. Her final character, a dope-smoking New Jersey teenager imprisoned in her father's house with a sister who "hates me because I'm really thin," planned a doomed flight to Paris with her boyfriend.
In "Masks and Mirrors," written and performed by Roberta Nobleman, the heroine is the artist herself. Combining mime and mask work, set to the music of Wagner and Mozart and to the poetry of other sexual-abuse victims, Nobleman recreated her own nightmarish horror --that of a little girl wrenched from her writing book, whose innocence is bludgeoned by adulthood thrust prematurely upon her young, uncomprehending body by her own father.
Stephanie Urdang's "Taking Life," which described her family's history through its feuding and its car wrecks, was at times engaging, occasionally grotesque in the descriptions of family diseases, but generally long-winded. Rather, "Brevity is the soul of wit."
Copyright 1996 Ian Reed
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