Gay abandon

Unity Fest 2001 Program B

The Fourth Unity
Bank Street Theatre
155 Bank Street (212) 358-3557
Equity showcase (closes Dec. 30)
Review by Arlene McKanic

If there were any doubts that a woman could be as narcissistic, obnoxious, and boob-obsessed as certain kinds of men, Bekka Lindstrom’s bravura performance as Sylvia in Lisa Haas’s Stacked: A Deviant Doctoral Dissertation shattered them utterly. Dressed in cargo pants and a matching cap, she leapt around and hollered in a library, danced with a wheelie full of her monstrous gazillion-page dissertation -- she swears it's a “chick magnet” -- and left the audience sick with laughter. Stacked, directed with insane happiness by James McLaughlin, was one of six short plays featured in Unity Fest 2001, a program of short plays that examine modern gay life in ways both funny and serious.

The evening began with Robin Rice Lichtig’s St. Anthony and the Appendix, also directed by McLaughlin, where a snipped-out appendix stands as a metaphor for the dangers of denial, specifically a crazy-making Mom (Ann Chandler)’s denial of her son Wally’s coming to adulthood; she's so deluded she thinks he's 15 instead of 21. Rounding out the cast were Leila Mansury as a crisp Sister Salvation, Frank Anthony Polito as Wally, sweet in his Calvin Klein skivvies and hospital johnny, and Tony Hamilton as Bob, Wally's lover, who proves to be nearly as suffocating as his Mom.

Linda Eisenstein’s F2F, directed by Donna Jean Fogel, is a bright, short piece about the attraction of a writer (Gisele Richardson) to a beautiful but straight woman, and resonated with those who have ever fallen for someone they can’t have.

In Peter Mercurio’s Refreshments, directed by Brenda D. Cook, a meeting between two guppies (John Jay Buol and Tony Hamilton) at a New Year’s Eve party deteriorates into the part of Scott, played with wonderful screechiness by Hamilton.

The experimental Not Exactly Strangers, by Andres J. Wrath, also directed by Cook, is a dreamy, sorrowful meditation on the wreckage of a relationship where the lovers (Ivan Davila and Christopher Lawrence Kann) simply can’t reach each other.

The remarkable Blow by Chay Yew, directed by Dennis Smith, deals with alienation on several levels. The young Hmong man played by Steven Eng is alienated from American culture (his template for living is The Mary Tyler Moore Show) by being an Asian immigrant, and alienated from the Hmong culture by, among other things, being gay. Virginia Wing was believable as his anxious, overworked mother, and Keith Lorrel Manning was the man who provides the work with a horrifying twist.

The festival’s set design was by Bekka Lindstrom, which proved that she’s a talented lady indeed, and in Program B it consisted of a stepped platform, which served as beds, sofas, chairs, and the floor of a library where the grandiose Sylvia imagines being ravished by Marian, the research librarian. The three arches behind it served as doors, windows, and niches. Renee Molina’s perfectly timed lighting captured the moods of the plays brilliantly. Sometimes the light was bright as a hospital room, or a spotlight picked out one character while another was kept in contemplative shadow, or the light flared into the red of a gay club/inferno, or a baby spot slid from an anxious, hopeful face into darkness. Patrick Wang’s evocative sound used everything from snatches of Wagner and R&B tunes to birdsongs and the sound of surf. Unity Fest was a terrific night at the theater. One caveat though: the theater wasn't exactly at 155 Bank Street, which was the Westbank Theater, but further down, through a large courtyard.>

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Sets: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 2

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Copyright 2001 Arlene McKanic