The dramatic conceit, as well as the connecting fiber, of Mark Borkowski's double bill of one-acts Before the Noise and Within the Skins of Saints at the Common Basis Theatre is the image of Saint Theresa being decapitated after having her nipples cut off by a crowd of men who are getting off on her mutilation. The image is a grisly one, but it is one of the many compelling aspects of this double bill.
Saint Theresa's image opens Before the Noise through a painting that couple Polly (Lorianne Kujawa) and Vince (James Davis) see at a museum. Vince gets an erection from it; Polly is mortified by it. The painting is a catalyst to the many things seriously wrong with the relationship, which erupts into near-violence. The image of the mutilation of Saint Theresa closes Within the Skins of Saints through a dream that the character named Her (Susan Mitchell) tells Him (Robert Steven.) She is deeply suicidal and is about to end her life by jumping on the train tracks when he enters and offers her human contact.
The evening featured outstanding acting. Ms. Kujawa's bold performance suggested something like a deep-rooted scar being picked open. Likewise, Ms. Mitchell was so believable and so grounded in her role of Her, it was hard to know where the actress began and the character ended. It could be easy to overlook the performances of Mr. Davis and Mr. Stevens because they got the less showy roles in each respective bill; instead both gave strong, memorable performances.
The double bill could have been an excuse for overly long passages and a lot of over-articulation of ideas and ideals, but the talented playwright spared us. He delivers two plays that are urgent, truthful and savagely funny. Robert Haufrect's directing was also first-rate. He seemed to give the actors enough room to find the play's humor and unsettling nature. The only caveat - the fight in Noise seemed a little too out-of-control; one of the actors could have gotten hurt. The sets and sound by Mr. Haufrecht and Mr. Santry were serviceable.
It's amazing how both Noise and Saints use the grisly mutilation of Saint Theresa to explore the male/female relationship and the human condition in general. It's this catalyst that is a reminder of what good theatre is intended to do.
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Copyright 1999 Andrès J. Wrath