Meanwhile, in an alternate universe . . .

Broken Truths

Cuthbert's Last Stand by Andrew Biss
The Box by Larry Brenner
Truth Day by Tommy Wallach
Directed by Ryan Davis
Conspiracy Theatre Company
Non union production (closed)
Review by David Mackler

As a title, Broken Truths doesn't even begin to describe the weirdness of the three one-acts presented by the Conspiracy Theatre Company. Nothing earthshaking, but there was cleverness and a couple of standout performances; and the production had an endearing let's-put-on-a-show quality.

Andrew Biss's Cuthbert's Last Stand had a bit of all of those elements. An overbearing Southern-belle mother (Andrea Biggs) is eager for her son Cuthbert (Nick Malone) to meet someone and settle down, and to that end she has picked up Tristram (Matt Sigl) who isn't quite sure what he's doing there. Cuthbert has a secret, though, and enough is finally enough. He stands up to his mother, and comes out -- as straight. Biggs was quite funny in her "What have I done?!" distress, and she was especially good with her character's throwaway lines, most of which had to do with drinking. Malone gave credence to all the familiar arguments in favor of his own preference, in the face of his mother's disappointment. It was a one-joke set up, but Biggs's hysteria made it play as funny, with the audience in on the joke.

Larry Brenner's The Box was also set in an alternate universe, with an old man (Kevin Villers) dying, and passing on a mysterious box to a young man (Darren Marshall). No one knows what's in it, and in fact the old man adopted the young man simply to have someone to pass the box along to. Some pseudo-comic dialog about whether curiosity killing cats is a legitimate allegorical concept was delivered with more panache than was warranted, but surprisingly the concept of allegorical concepts became a running gag and the play settled into its own groove. Villers was particularly good making this sort of thing humorous (even while wearing a silly hat), with able support from Marshall, Alec Tomkiw as The Devil, and Matt Sigl as God. The final gag about what was in the box was a little lame -- the play was Monty Pythonish up until then, but the Pythons knew when to cut.

Tommy Wallach's Truth Day also skewed what could be considered anything like normal behavior, with the family springing on poor ol' hapless dad (Kevin Villers) the celebration of Truth Day, wherein they tell him exactly what they think of him. No one loves him, his wife (Andrea Biggs) is cheating, his kids (Brian Lynch, Heather Favretto) talk down to him using words he doesn't understand, his parents (Charles McCown, Joy Seligsohn) tell him the truth about an art project he made for them years ago that they professed to love. Even his shrink (Kirk Smith) makes a devastating appearance. It's truly a Twilight Zone nightmare, and Villers and Biggs make it work, with terrific support from McCown and Seligsohn, and eager support from Lynch, Favretto and Smith.

Director Ryan Davis kept things moving briskly, letting each play's loopiness speak for itself. Charles Cameron's lighting was particularly helpful in Truth Day, echoing the fractured reality. Even if there were no belly laughs in Broken Truths, Conspiracy Theatre Company deserves praise for its utter belief in the silliness it presented.

Box Score:

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

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Copyright 2002 David Mackler