Scatological eschatology

The Third Pulpit

Written and directed by Ed Stever
American Theatre of Actors
Non-union production (closed)
Review by Marshall Yaeger

This highly intelligent play came as a complete surprise. Although it piled up such nine-dollar words as "Weltanschauung"; and although it treated some of the most intractable philosophical subjects ever (such as illusion and reality; ethics; even God), the author did such a good job at delineating character, wrote so poetically and humorously, and displayed such a good theatrical sense, that what could have been a tremendously tedious exercise by a Philosophy 101 teaching assistant turned out to be a short but enjoyable comedy.

The writer (who puts forth a kind of bathroom eschatology of a scatological universe that started with a Bang and will end with a fart) has a real talent for articulating character through actions. True, the author's metaphysics seemed to resist every flush of the toilet, with references to bowel movements floating up, again and again, in the bowl. But in a world that's filled with dregs and droppings, attention should be paid once in a while to the pigeon that craps right on top of your head.

Two strangers share a park bench. One is a lawyer played by Victor Trevino. The other is an actor, just out of the Juilliard, played by Coop Waller. (Both players worked hard and effectively to simulate their predicaments-not to mention mastering their lines-which must have been a bitch!)

The lawyer bemoans his gradual loss of integrity and even will to live. Defending guilty criminals has made him the perennial pessimist-but with a difference: his glass is half-full-of shit.

The younger man talks sense into the disillusioned stranger and manages to change the direction of his life.

Of course the lawyer has his reasons for such dour opinions as that the earth is one big toilet bowl in an unhappy universe. These reasons were graphically supported to a highly realistic degree (such as a frightening-looking gun, and even an envelope with "Court Evidence" machine-printed on it). This play, although in workshop form, included every proper detail where it counted. Several in the appreciative audience turned their heads away rather than have to see what might have turned out awful. But that very instinct may have been what the play was about. At least it was written by someone skilled enough to know how to rub people's noses in intelligent, unsavory thought.

The ending of the play (with a walk-on by Mr. Stever) was unexpected, amusing, rather cheap, and could have been done better. But it wasn't unsatisfying.

Because this performance was a simple workshop "in progress," no attention need be drawn to set, lights, or costumes. None was needed. Writing, direction, and acting carried the day.

The author took a big gamble on appearing too erudite a rambler. Fortunately, he has real talent for the stage. Let's hope there's more to come.

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Set: N/A
Costumes: N/A
Lighting/Sound: N/A

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Copyright 1998 Marshall Yaeger