Life Is In the Details

Written and directed by John Pellman
Stahl-Bet Productions
Grove St. Playhouse
Non-union production (closed)
Review by John Chatterton

In "The Conversation," two room-mates discuss the previous evening's party. One young man (Chris, played effectively as a sensitive literary type by Ross Gibby) repetitively cross-examines the other (Oz, a pragmatic, earthy character, played by Stu Kamens) about whether Oz made it with Chris's intended (Karen, played social light-years beyond the guys by Diane Hudock) the night before.

Numerous flashbacks showed the room-mates' versions of the party, Rashomon-style. Both wanted to get into Karen's pants, one by coming on to her while they were both stoned, the other by engaging her in current if rather vapid conversation in the hope she would somehow fall into his arms. The incident shows that Oz and Chris have very different expectations of women and love.

Karen calls up to say she found Oz's wallet in her car. Chris is pissed, but eventually Karen returns the wallet (now Chris's) to Chris. This only makes sense if Chris and Oz are the same person (a spontaneous audience quiz of the couple in front showed that at least one member of the audience got the point). (Pellman shows a deft hand and a decent ear in weaving the strands of the conversations between the room-mates in the morning and the partygoers the night before. In a role that should have spread more confusion but didn't, Christopher Diana played both Chris and Oz at the party, though he looked much more like Chris.) But what were Steve and Will doing at the party?

"Crossing Broadway" was a staged poem, in loosely metrical rhyme, wherein a man crossed Broadway, stretching it through his internal monolog into a very wide avenue indeed. A literary exercise at expanding time and space by reference to an expanded internal set of coordinates, it has more in common with the other pieces than met the eye. (Kudos go to Kofi for his physical and verbal control as the pedestrian and to bassist Charles Frommer for his "walking" accompaniment.)

"The Customer" told the story of another young man (Christopher Diana) stuck in a relationship with a distant girlfriend (played stiffly by Lisette Merenciana) and in a job with a boss from hell (the truly over-the-top Christopher C. Marazzo). At night, a wacky cable self-help maven, Sid (in a compelling portrait by Charles Campo) weasels into his TV and encourages him to take control of his life. A Twilight Zone twist-within-a-twist ending didn't offer much surprise.

All these plays show a literary, or "clever" approach to playwriting. Sure, they teach Shakespeare in English Lit. courses -- but he didn't get there by creating anagrams.

The set (design by Petra Barchi) was three white doors and some tables and chairs. Costumes were street. Lights (Jose Antonio), like writing and direction, did less with more, especially in the first piece, constantly cross-fading to show different states.

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