Twentysomethings in love and lust

3 Guys And a Girl Named Lisa and Underneath

Two one-acts by Lloyd Price
The Common Basis Theatre Equity showcase (closed)
Review by David Mackler

If there's a common theme to playwright Lloyd Price's two one-acts at the Common Basis Theatre, it is probably that relationships are not easy, and neither is life when you are in your 20s. Not new thoughts, but in 3 Guys and a Girl Named Lisa (directed by Lloyd Price) he presents a recognizable situation guaranteed to provoke confrontation.

Jake's problem is that while he wants to marry Lisa, he unfortunately went and asked her about her past. And she went and told him. What to do with information? Tell your best buddies, of course, and let them sort it out for you. And why not bring it up on your weekly sports night? The Knicks are no competition for that discussion, right? Well, duh.

So Jake (Richard Raganella), who is still seeing other women by the way, butts heads with Mike (Louis Changchien), who's in a domestic soap opera of his own, while Ron (Chris Gandley) tries to keep the peace as well as order in his apartment. Once the dramatic exposition was out of the way, the cast was quite good. Changchien particularly showed the ambivalence in his character, being fiercely defensive as well as the voice of experience. Gandley, whose character smoked a joint before the rest got there, got the manner and speech pattern just right. When Lisa (Aleta LaFarge) shows up and learns what the topic of conversation is, things start to get interesting, especially because LaFarge was so real - angry, confused, and full of genuine feeling. Raganella was somewhat stiff at first, but he loosened up, and was best when cornered. Unfortunately, he bore the brunt of the play's failing, which was a rushed, not terribly believable resolution. Just when 3 Guys... verged on being an interesting, somewhat thoughtful play, it took the easy way out. Price as director was undermined by Price the playwright.

Underneath (directed by Amy Coleman) concerns Carol, a prostitute (Maria Scavullo) and Michael (Kevin Rendon), the john who picks her up. But even on its own limited terms, it's all foreplay and no payoff. She does a line of coke, he's fastidious. He has a gun and wants her to shoot him, or he'll shoot her. It's the kind of play where the line "Do your parents know you walk the streets?" is answered with "Do your parents know how badly you want to kill yourself?" It's a character sketch where details are revealed but not much plot, or much character either, just pseudo-revelatory conversation until the play just stop. The performances by Scavullo and Rendon were intense and heartfelt, even as the play became more incomprehensible, and if director Amy Coleman was up against a brick wall, she was good with the actors. One could pass the time by noting that Underneath owes a debt of sorts to The Owl and the Pussycat.

Set designer Gabriella Nicolescu did wonders with Ron's apartment, making it quite believable as a living area, and changing just enough for Michael's apartment to give it a different flavor. (Costumes also by Nicolescu.) Lighting and sound (Larry Frank and Amy Telsey) were satisfactory, but using Aretha Franklin songs, particularly "Respect," will only go so far in providing meaning and substance where it is otherwise lacking.

Box Score:

Writing: 1

Directing: 1

Acting: 2

Set: 2

Costumes: 1

Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2001 David Mackler