Passionate women

The Cue for Passion

Written and directed by Richard Harland Smith
Vital Theatre Company
Non-union production (closed)
Review by Adam Cooper

Richard Harland Smith's new two-character play, The Cue for Passion, explores conflicts between actors and directors and themes of success versus integrity in the film industry. Smith, who also directed this production, presented this one-act as a work-in-progress inspired by events surrounding Kim Basinger's backing out of the film Boxing Helena.

The four-scene play begins as actress Claire Marconi (Michelle Maryk) meets director Vena Lemon (Betsy Foldes) to discuss a new film project, only to degenerate into silent-movie-like snapshots of argument and frustration. Claire and Vena do talk but initially avoid discussing the project. Instead, Vena subjects Claire to an aggressive interrogation about her latest exotic sexual adventure, proposing alternatives in a script development-like fashion. Vena acknowledges past trouble with an actress who backed out of her first film. Finally, discussing the instant project, they debate which part might be best for Claire.

Trouble then erupts on this new set as Claire, wearing a red sheet and looking model-like, complains about the nude scene Vena furtively filmed of her. Vena tries to sell her on the need for this "romantic" scene. Their exchanges oddly lead to the idea of a spanking scene in which Claire lies on Vena's lap, only to be thrown off. The rejection leads to a repetition of history as Claire walks off the set and threatens a lawsuit.

In scene three Claire, now a successful director of feel-good entertainment, and Vena are interviewed on a TV talk show. Their exchanges move between on-camera public relations babble and off-camera debates over each other's integrity. The argument erupts into Vena's pinching Claire's nipple.

Claire and Vena do come together, though, in the final scene, working on a new exploitive straight-to-video project. Claire reveals how her star has fallen after having had film and TV credits to her name. In a turnabout Vena lends an ear to Claire's lament, offers advice, and buries the hatchet, coming full circle by offering Claire a part in her new movie.

Maryk was adequately successful playing Claire as a somewhat illiterate, naïve neophyte in the industry, achieving a kind of success but then falling from grace and relying on the schlock - and director - she had spurned. Foldes admirably captured the erratic behavior of Vena, switching into her different modes of prurient-minded, immature voyeur to obsessive, manipulative budget director. Yet, the character came across as an unstable collection of striking personas and not an integrated character. Both portrayals would have benefited by a deeper exposure of their experiences.

Many interesting directing choices were made; but they came off as disunited, raw, and in the experimental stages. Characterizations need to be fuller. Changes in character lack smooth transitions. Dialogue periodically digresses into static arguments rather than exploring fresh ideas. More of the film industry needs to be utilized in creating the world of the play. Scenes need to be more unified beyond their current blocky state.

Sets were simple and suggestive. Lighting was effective if not inventive. Costuming was rather creative and striking, most notably in the outfits Claire wore on the film locations. Sets, lighting, and costumes were uncredited. Technical direction was by Todd Lundquist.
Box Score:

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

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Copyright 1999 Adam Cooper