Not your children's Silverstein

An Adult Evening of Shel Silverstein

By Shel Silverstein
Directed by Dennis W. Gleason
Rising Sun Performance Company
John Houseman Studio Two (closed)
Review by Deborah S. Greenhut

Plenty of inner child was visible during the Rising Sun Performance Company's production of An Adult Evening of Shel Silverstein. Actors romped in bright t-shirts, around primary colors, amid the simple set and props, as the audience watched from two sides of a square at the John Houseman Studio Theater-But this was not your children's Silverstein! Hookers, neurotics, a blind blues man, an angry daughter-in-law, a talking dog, and other linguistic offenders torqued themselves and others through slavery, extortion, and other perils in a sampling of ten sketches and entr'acte poetry by Shel Silverstein. This fun and often hilarious production suggested there was no escape from our darker passions-studying the past was no guarantee against repeating its excesses.

The evening began with the sale of a slave woman named Annie (Kelly Markus) by the Auctioneer (Nic Mevoli) in "Going Once." Silverstein's exploration of a woman's plight continued with the tables turned by a daughter-in-law, Jen (Beverly Lauchner) against her unprepared husband, Sherwin (Jason Tyne) in "The Life Boat is Sinking." In the third sketch, "Best Daddy," Lisa (Kate Grimes) received an unexpected birthday gift from her Daddy (David Anthony). Merely "One Tennis Shoe" implicated the wife, Sylvia (J. Malia Hawley), as a bag lady from the point of view of the husband, Harvey (David Hale). The torment of women continued with "Wash & Dry," an extortion plot featuring RSP's Artistic Director and Founder, Akia as the hapless Marianne and George as they opportunistic launderer. Following the intermission, a "meat and potatoes" argument ensued between Pete (David Anthony, RSP Co-Founder) and Lucy (Kelly Marcus), which led to an arrest and trial featuring some slapstick action including Theo Ellis as Inspector, Bailiff, and Executioner; Akia, as Seargent, Prosecutor, and Guard; and Jason Tyne as Judge and Clergyman in "Thinking Up a New Name for the Act." That women could get the upper hand sometimes, came to light in the action of "Bus Stop," a send up of intimidating sexual innuendo between Celia (J. Malia Hawley) and Irwin (David Hale). Another spoof of the legal profession and the perils of linguistic creativity occurred in "Smile," and the action returned to the selling of women in "Buy One Get One Free," in which everything rhymed with "ee"-but of course nothing was "free" after all. "Blind Willie" culminated the show with a lesson about loyalty in the tale of a blues man and his dog.

Dennis W. Gleason's direction yielded a number of excellent performances, particularly in "The Life Boat is Sinking," in which Jen (Beverly Lauchner) and Sherwin (Jason Tyne) navigated a new twist on an old mother-in-law joke, and by the performers in "Blind Willie," a different take on a man's best friend through the story of Blind Willie (Nic Mevoli) and his talking dog, Barney (Theo Ellis). Ellis' puppy face and canine gestures were particularly affecting. The aforementioned "meat and potatoes" argument was skillfully executed using only two words by Pete (David Anthony, Co-founder, RSP) and Lucy (Kelly Markus). Each ensemble actor performed at least two different roles. Because these were all sketches, not plays, some of the pieces offered more closure than others did, and, although each character had a different name, there was a great deal of repetition in the action. Here and there, the generic "inner child" seemed to eclipse the adult individuals.

Costumes by Courtney Hebert effectively represented the child-like people with overgrown difficulties. Lighting was designed by David Anthony and Dennis Gleason to make good use of the limited instruments in the theater, including some serviceable special effects.

Box Score:

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

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Copyright 2004 Deborah S. Greenhut