Tales from the East Side

The Adventures of Katwoman

Written and performed by Susan Mitchell

Time It Is

By Lissa Moira
Directed by Lissa Moira
Impact Theatre
Non-union production (closed)
Review by John Chatterton

The frequent presence of Lissa Moira's name in these pages reflects her persistence at writing, producing, performing, and directing Off-Off-Broadway, sometimes in venues where more fearful souls might not be willing to tread -- and where conditions make it hard to work at all.

It is a pleasure, then, to report on the recent evening at the Impact Theatre, which featured Moira's directing of Jon Spano's Bill's Window (reviewed in a previous issue) and Richard West's Coastal Complexes (likewise), as well as the pieces at hand.

Susan Mitchell presented a manic, sometimes schizoid character in a breakneck delivery on a wide variety of subjects. She sometimes fixed her audience with the same look favored by street people seeking to intimidate the citizenry into donating cash to unsavory and unspoken causes. She also plays a mean violin (nimbly if unmelodically) and favors cat makeup and costume. A hypnotic and sometimes disturbing performance, although her breathy, rasping voice production limited her vocal (and expressive) range, at least on the night in question. This is an act that crept out of a dark alley in the audience's mind -- perhaps an alley the viewer would rather keep off limits.

Time It Is is a deeply personal rendering of a love affair at a turning point. Alizia (Moira) and John (the talented Mark Hamlet) debate whether she should move out of her sixth-floor Ludlow St. walkup, where she has lived, worked (as a painter), and thrived for six years, and move into his Chelsea digs.

The strongest aspect of the script is the scope it gave Moira to explore the wrenching emotional landscape of a mother's death from lung cancer, a subject tied to the play by a (sometimes tenuous) knot of survivor guilt. That her reactions sometimes seemed a bit over-wrought suggested the downside of working with oneself as a director.

Mark Hamlet has a relaxed way as an actor that lets him sneak disingenuously into the oddest subject matter. His role here, as the smooth-talking lover with every plausible reason why his girl should move in with him, didn't tax his range. After all, the male's role in the pas de deux is to hoist his female counterpart up to shoulder-level.

How John convinces Alizia to make the move -- by appealing to her sense of social responsibility -- makes for a hard-to-believe ending. Also, the sometimes heightened, poetic diction made it hard for Hamlet to present his character of a carpenter (however well-educated). It will be interesting to see whether a recast John (in a production upcoming this October at TNC) will put a different spin on the character.

The most prominent aspect of the set was a tile mandala glued to center stage, in what turned out to be a clever Freudian touch. The lighting at the Impact could be a lot better if some effort were expended to find and use ``barn doors,'' although the theatre also suffers from a shortage of instruments.

Box Score:
Writing 1
Directing 1
Acting 1
Set 0
Costumes 0
Lighting/Sound 0
Copyright 1996 John Chatterton

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