Marathon '96--Series C

Ensemble Studio Theatre
Equity showcase (closed)
Review by Marshall Yaeger

Review provided by oobr, "the off-off-broadway review"

These four one-acts strained a bit too hard for immortality. Like lonely women on a cruise, their figures sagged in the middle, and the mascara was a bit thick for two in the afternoon.

``Home,'' by Laura Cahill, directed by Jace Alexander, attempted to breathe life into the clichéd relationship between an independent widow (Helen Gallagher) and her dependent daughter (Janet Zarish). Trying to rise like a wounded Phoenix from the ashes of her life, the daughter finds herself not altogether welcome back in New Jersey. This conflict leads to revelations which even the characters admit aren't properly motivated. (``Why tell me now?'' one asks.)

Greg MacPherson's lights made dawn through one window and sunset through the other, then almost blinded us to begin ``The Adoption'' by Joyce Carol Oates. Directed by Kevin Confoy, this play is a surreal snapshot of an upscale couple (Dan Daily and Cecilia deWolf) when, after 13 years (with ``never a moment's deprivation''), a Kafkaesque adoption agent (Margo Skinner) presents them with their dysfunctional bundle of joy (Donna Marvin).

The author's match of often predictable situations to her quirky style was something like children's rhymes set to classical music. But the director and costume designer (Murell Horton) ingeniously created an actual doppelgaenger (Tara Sands). Then again, at EST, everyone works admirably. Thus Jeffrey Taylor's sound featured some amusing music between the plays. And Bruce Goodrich built an out-of-doors set that would grace almost any Broadway theatre for Greg Germann's ``The Observatory.''

Directed by Jim Simpson, this play could be a text for introductory philosophy courses that span as wide as Bishop Berkeley and Immanuel Kant to Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel.

In the process, the author creates a unique and charming character (played by the wonderful Diana Lamar) who tramples her way through high-concept gardens. Thus, when a man she fancies (Dennis Boutsikaris) rejects her, she joyfully congratulates his integrity.

But by the end this playwright learns little from his character's pretensions, as he creeps toward epiphany for the sake of ``significant drama'' instead of satisfying his audience's pleasure. Come on, these actors were lovely. Why not feed the audience's dreams a little, instead of giving the requisite ``reality'' so championed by his fatuous heroine -- who's completely full of shit?

``Slide Show,'' written and acted by Paul Selig and directed by Chris Smith, presented a fascinating concept about a woman whose life becomes that of a reliquary--like a museum piece her archaeologist husband dug up from of the earth to be entombed behind glass.

Selig could have found a better way to reach his dramatic point, but on the whole the writing and performance were beautiful, moving, utterly artificial, and right. An author with such poetic power has tremendous promise and should dig further in the chthonic earth where he will surely find more treasures.

Box Score:
Writing 2
Directing 2
Acting 2
Set 2
Costumes 2
Lighting/Sound 2
Copyright 1996 Marshall Yaeger

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