Acquired tastes

Third Annual Myriad Arts Festival

Myriad Arts Productions
30th St. Theatre
Non-union production (closed)
Review by Adrienne Onofri

Drinking Zombies, one play in the Myriad Arts Festival, has a lot of explicit sex but nary a kiss onstage-and that's probably no coincidence. All the plays have a lot of coupling but not a whole lot of tenderness. What is coincidental is that just like sex without love, the plays leave you wanting more.

Which is actually a credit to Myriad Arts; if the plays were bad, we'd be glad when they ended, regardless of their denouement. The festival producers showed a keen eye for talent: the scripts are engaging and the actors were well-cast and appealing. (What did drag out the program was the inclusion of short films. Myriad Arts produces "work in a variety of media," but it should give plays and films their own evenings to avoid a three-hour running time.)

The best example of an unsatisfying conclusion is in Dan Chen's Dick and Jane, directed by Merritt Minnemeyer. Dick is the lonely manager of a bowling alley; Jane is an aspiring standup comedian who comes in for a drink. Dick listens to her, supports her, adores her-three things her boyfriend doesn't do. Dick and Jane spend the night together, then the play ends abruptly, leaving it unclear whether she will return to the undeserving boyfriend or realize Dick is the good guy she's been looking for. The audience certainly wants the latter for these two, sympathetically portrayed by James Cairl and Amy Fellers. Although it seems unfinished, this is a nice love story, with effective use of Elvis tunes.

Bubbles, a monologue written and performed by Megan Hayes (and directed by Elizabeth Murray), also is underdeveloped. Bubbles is an Alabama stripper whose rough life has given her a knowing perspective on sex and love. She mentions a Jewish businessman from New York who broke her heart and of her minister father, a "repressed fairy," but doesn't tell us enough about them and how they affected her. Hayes is certainly charismatic enough to sustain the audience's interest in a longer monologue. Her show doesn't need the nudie pics projected on a screen, though. Also, it's unlikely that white trash would quote Tennessee Williams, as Bubbles does.

Video was used advantageously in the Jonathan Betzler-directed Drinking Zombies, D.T. Arcieri's contemporary tale of sex on the college campus. Thomas (James Elmore), a biology professor, is fascinated by sex but only in the academic sense. Charles (Peter Weisenburger), a Nietzsche-loving student, is preoccupied with it physically and philosophically. They both have their chance with Nancy (Terri O'Neill), a professor engaged to Thomas. It's a thoughtful, bittersweet, and astutely acted play that unfortunately gives short shrift to the most likable character-Charles's girlfriend, Ellen (a wistful Rachel Parker), who was wounded by sexual incidents in her childhood. At play's end, Ellen's longing, unlike the others', is unresolved.

As for Avatar, the first play of the evening, it also is well written (by Anthony Pennino) and was well-acted (Jo Benincasa and especially Gabriel Silva) and directed (by Missy Somers), but its subject matter is just too off-putting: incest between brothers.

(Sets, Magdalena Abramson; lighting, Pamela J. Traynor; sound, Jeffrey "Yoshi" Lee.)
Box Score:

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

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Copyright 2000 Adrienne Onofri