Showcasing the results of an annual national competition, The Gypsy Road Company's 21st Century Playwrights Festival featured a trilogy of plays from emerging playwrights. The 1995 Festival winner, Bonnie Morgan's Finding Rose, was being performed in repertory with two one-acts: Martin Dockery's Oh, That Wily Snake and Leah Ryan's Where I'm Headed. All three plays indicate true potential for their authors, with, in particular, excellent dialogue and character development, yet all are marked by weak structural technique.
Finding Rose is most notable for its extremely clever premise. A mystery set in the '40s, it features veteran Tommy Ward (Jim Fantome), on a desperate quest to find the woman he fell in love with while hospitalized for a war wound. His queries to government agencies proving unsatisfactory, he begins to suspect that there is a plot afoot. When he meets Miss Clark (Mary Bacon), the timid young typist at the publishing firm whose romance novel he is currently representing, he becomes convinced that she is indeed his Rose. Bacon was stunning in the dual role, vibrant and indomitable as Rose, distressingly subdued as Miss Clark. Mystery novelist Carol Higgins Clark played Ward's receptionist Anne, who never quite confesses her own love. Jay Devlin and Anita Keal provided engaging cameos, and Aaron Harpold was alternately irritating and powerful as Miss Clark's abusive publisher boss.
But in spite of an overall strong cast and an intriguing plot in which fact and fantasy blur and the lines between fiction and real life unravel, Finding Rose needs a much clearer structure to keep its intricate plot moving forward. Its back and forth movement in time, rather than building suspense, became redundant and muddy.
Where I'm Headed, the tale of three cross-country ventures, features clear, concise writing, and many individual scenes are impeccably crafted. Cerris Morgan-Moyer shone as the teenage runaway, Janet, and her scenes with the Punk Driver (Will Crawford) contain some absolutely brilliant dialogue. But though these (and many other) individual scenes are excellent, they are not satisfactorily woven together, and the connections between the stories are never fully forged; the play thus lacks coherence. Where I'm Headed also featured Jason Tyler White, Moira Gentry, Jane Kimmel, Michael Garr, Christina Cabot, Mark Greenfield, Hart Tangredi, Robert Kilbridge and Connie Tarbox.
Oh, That Wily Snake is a Garden of Eden allegory, in which God is replaced by a ten-foot invisible Belgian named Marcel, highly potent Brussels sprouts take the place of the apple, and knowledge is somehow equated with Aruba. Arthur Hanket played the Man and Alison Fraser the Woman. Both were adequate, but they could not quite lift this tale of a flying bed into the realm of sense.
John Anthony Mercurio designed a suitably flexible set for all three plays, which was complemented by Shelley Norton's costumes and Richard M. Rose's sound. Lighting design, by Chris Gorzelnik, was superlative.
Copyright 1996 Sarah Stevenson
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