Tentative steps

Opening Acts

One-Act Play Festival, Series B
Workshop Theater Company
312 West 36th St. 4th fl. (695-4173)
Non-union production (closes Aug. 24; Series C to follow; festival closes Sept. 28)
Review by Brook Wilensky-Lanford

The second evening of Workshop Theater Company's one-act play festival consisted of three short pieces and two more-developed scripts. Priscilla's Neurosis (by William Kovacsik, directed by Scott Sickles) is an awkward version of a familiar conceit: mysterious stranger wreaks havoc on the lives of unsuspecting couple. Dr. Hamish (Christopher Burke), an "interspecies communicator," is hired by Jane Sobel (Lori Faiella) to relieve her cat Priscilla's anxiety, much to the skepticism of her husband, John (Patrick Tansor). Dr. Hamish is an unwieldy character: part tweedy psychoanalyst with unidentifiable European accent, part incense-lighting New Age seer. Jane is so inexplicably devoted to Priscilla she doesn't notice she's being groped by the creepy Freudian. Understated Patrick Tansor, as Mr. Sobel, gave the least cartoonish performance.

In The Accident (written and performed by Gail Thomas, directed by Charles Gerber and Melissa Wood), a middle-aged actress tells the story of getting hit by a car on her birthday. Unfortunately, Thomas recounts every single detail of the entire day, in what a high-school English teacher might refer to as "bed-to-bed" style. And the neuroses of an insecure, sex-obsessed L.A. voiceover actress don't contain enough suspense or interest to be riveting.

Valentine Memory (written and directed by Rick Eisenberg) also stars an oversexed woman. Journalist Susan (Connie Day) swoons in the arms of co-worker Alois (James Lorenzo). Dialog reveals only how much they want each other, no details of who these characters are. Therefore it's not at all surprising when Susan's previous lover Michael (Jack Luceno) reveals that Alois is a sham -- if true love has to be stated repeatedly, it may not be so true after all. (In another indication of weak dramatic writing, all three characters -- Susan, Alois, and Michael -- repeatedly address each other by their names.)

Lewis's Creation (written and directed by Stephen Roylance) is a more developed comic scene, which gives itself a head start with its setting on the final day of a playwriting class. The students (Gail Dennison, Michael Jankowitz, Liz Lalumia, Roylance, Ellen Saland, Matt Walker and Scott Sickles) have impressively tight comic timing as a group. Nebbishy Lewis's quest to get his dramatic 10-minute masterpiece read by his diva classmates in the last 12 minutes of class is a sympathetic one.

Beautiful Noises (Written by Scott Sickles; directed by Michael Montel) gives a surprisingly full rendering of a complex story in a short time. Brother and sister Joel (Amir Arison) and Rachel (Regina Taufen) are reunited in heaven, where they join forces to seek forgiveness of their mother (Patricia O'Connell) and Joel's boyfriend Arliss (Stephen Girasuolo), still living on Earth. The fact that their mother can't hear them requires that they communicate through Arliss, whom Mrs. Bergman does not like, which makes for a fascinating symphony of confessions and revelations.

All five mini-plays employed minimal production values, which generally did nothing to cover up the limitations of the writing.

Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Sets: 0
Costumes: 0
Lighting/Sound: 0

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Copyright 2002 Brook Wilensky-Lanford