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Vital Signs Series 3

Vital Theatre Company
432 W. 42nd St. 3rd fl. (212/268-2040)
Equity showcase (closes Apr. 27)
Review by Jenny Sandman

Vital Theatre Company’s festival of new plays didn’t seem to have picked up since the second installment. The best of the three in Series 3 can only be described as halting; the least successful.... It’s a shame, too; the actors were too good to be saddled with such mediocre material, and the playwrights show more promise than these pieces let on. The direction of all three pieces seemed uninspired as well, relying on the movement of the set pieces rather than the movement of the actors.

Galileo in the Underworld, by R.L. Nesvet, directed by Eugenia Tzirtzilaki (with Anthony Bishop, Patrick Burchill, Morganne Davies, and Baz Snider), is the most promising of the bunch. Galileo sits, biding his time in Hell, busy with his experiments while a bored, Eurotrash-esque Prince of Hell watches over him. When the Pope revokes the Church’s centuries-old condemnation of Galileo (in 1992), Galileo is suddenly free to go. He has been ex-excommunicated, so to speak. Satan tries to pretend he doesn’t care, but he rants and raves and eventually goes to look for him. It could have been very funny, but moved very slowly and grudgingly. Whether the fault of the acting or the staging, it nearly stagnated. It needed to pick up the pace substantially.

The second, Before the Wreckage, by Robin Rothstein, directed by Thomas Cote (with Nancy Harkins and Liz Lalumia), was the shortest. Two bridesmaids meet on a soon-to-be-demolished bridge, discussing the marriage of their friend and their impending business partnership. One tries to back out of the arrangement, only to discover that the other two women were planning to dump her anyway. The conversation stumbles along, but the friendship is obviously doomed. It is tantalizing, but ultimately unrewarding. There simply isn’t enough story or conflict.

White Stones, by Ken Gaertner, directed by Mark Bloom (with Ian Tabatchnick, Lorree True, and Anne Winkles), is the least successful. The language is stilted and overly poetic; it sounds like a bad parody of a Harlequin romance novel. With lines like "The earth from you will frolic again," and "His narrow eyes have slit open the thin skin of my longing," it’s no wonder the acting felt forced. Not many actors could pull off "The gray horizon of the past has seeped like fog into your hair." Set in a timeless past, the thin plot involves a young woman who is in love with the village schoolteacher. The schoolteacher is still mourning his dead wife, and has no patience for her. She pursues him relentlessly, though he discourages her at every turn. The actors chafed under the stale dialogue; they deserved better material. Hopefully Vital Theatre Company has saved the best for last, and the upcoming fourth, and final, series of new plays will be more successful.

Box Score:

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

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Copyright 2003 Jenny Sandman