Two for the road

The Kane Mutiny

By Carolyn Raship Directed by Donna LaStella
Screaming Venus Productions

Tequila Dreams

By Anonymous
Directed by Emanuel Bocchieri
Feed the Herd Theater Co.

(Performed at Flatiron Theatre; Equity showcase; closed.)
Review by James A. Lopata

It is tempting to compare playwright Carolyn Raship to many great American dramatic writers. In The Kane Mutiny, her stunning one-act play, her psychology is as deep as Sam Shepard's. Her characters' neuroses are as frightening as Edward Albee's. Her poetry may not be as rich as Tennessee Williams's (whose is?), but her plots and characters are less forumlaic than Neil Labute's. She is confidently staking out her territory in our country's strong history of poetic realism.

Self-exiled from her past, the protagonist Sarah lives in a Manhattan apartment with no closets. Her estranged brother arrives in a surprise visit to celebrate their "anniversary." The diabolical festivities that follow reveal devastating secrets of the Kane family which harken back to British royalty of the 1600s. This brother and sister, now drowning in alcohol, revive bygone episodes to ill affect.

Sarah's lover Gina (Erin O'Leary) is the neutral third party who finds herself caught as the uncomfortable pawn in this final family showdown. O'Leary played her with the ease and naturalism needed to counteract these two neurotic siblings.

The likeable brother with a dark underside, Gary (Adrian Bewley), goads his sister, clearly knowing which buttons to press. Bewley expertly alternated between calm southern charm and vindictive animosity.

Sarah (Monica Sirignano), as the pivotal person, is emotionally pulled by both parties. With a glass of red wine clutched in her frantic hands, Sirignano embodied the anxiety of a person whose past is in hot pursuit of her.

Flashback scenes evoked the eerie expressionistic landscapes of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari through the talents of the extraordinary lighting designer Ryan Schmidt.

Leaving the theatre would have been a catharsis except for two points.

The first was that the direction of the play by Donna LaStella, while often extremely effective at engaging the dramatic realism, didn't always rise to the heights of the poetic language. This was particularly true when Sarah makes her final decision - choosing between past and future, Gina and Gary - at the end of the play.

The second was sitting through the second play.

Tequila Dreams evokes the experience of alcohol-induced hallucination. The writing was credited to an anonymous group of creators and never really coagulated. The jokes tended to revolve around drunken hijinks and non sequiturs. The comic parts elicited the greatest laughs from audience members who were drinking beer in the theatre.

Several themes were attempted. Justice appeared in the form of a mysterious female dominatrix/cop/judge, The Crow (Traci Sym). Risk made its presence known in the form of a gambler, The Other Man (Jamie Benge). Kevin Kaine, as the inebriated Halo, had great energy and held most of the show together. The setting was stark.

Director Emanual Bocchieri's experimental approach had moments of poignancy. Unfortunately, creating in the alpha-state is fine, but requiring intoxication of your audience to appreciate the final product is not. (Creative aid provided by Ross Peabody.)

Box Score:

The Kane Mutiny

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

Tequila Dreams

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

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Copyright 1999 James A. Lopata