Breaking the Surface

Good Sense

Written and directed by Steve Willis

Dancing on Ice

By Janet Sarno and Anita Keal
Directed by Janet Sarno
The Glines
Grove Street Playhouse
Non-union production (closed)
Review by James A. Lopata

No one is who he appears to be at The Glines's latest enjoyable evening of one-acts. The beautiful Puerto Rican prostitute Julie is really a man. The swaggering army boy from Idaho is really a scared, sissy virgin. And the young redneck in the trailer likes boys.

Do we need to hear another coming-out story? Probably just as much as we need to see another love story. Which is to say that there is always room for one more if it is done well. With the affable Tim Austin as Jeff at the helm of Steve Willis's one man show Good Sense, it's good pickin's.

What makes this colloquial monologue unique and refreshing is that, instead of moving to the nearest major city, Jeff decides to stay living in the back woods to help make a better life for queer kids growing up in this rural county. It is the common man as hero. Without much dramatic action, it is Tim Austin's chicken imitations, lovable smile, and heartfelt telling of his father's rejection that make the show. How could a parent ever let a boy like that go? With an after-school special feel to the show, this would leave any liberal feeling cozy.

In Dancing on Ice, Charlie (Jeff Patterson) struts outside a fast-food restaurant on Ninth Avenue at 5 a.m. trying to get laid. His object is Julie (Nathan Buchanan), who, unbeknownst to him, is really Julio. So they shimmy around their attractions, repulsions, and fears for the next hour. Charlie is particularly distraught because his mother has just married his dead father's brother. Is this a new take on Hamlet? Julie, of course, is no Ophelia -- her woes include having been used for sexual commerce since the age of nine. Moved by her pain and despite his rude awakening at her true sex, Charlie offers her his prized possession, his dead father's Purple Heart.

This ending, like much of Janet Sarno and Anita Keal's script, is a trifle forced and a trifle touching. But the play is always engaging, with several moments of humor.

Jeff Patterson was positively endearing in his portrayal of the innocent Charlie. Nathan Buchanan fit so perfectly into costume designer John Nakovich's colorful Latin dress, high heels, and wig that it was almost more difficult to believe he was a man as he revealed that everything below his surface was "falsies."

Scott Davis's lighting captured pre-dawn Manhattan. Louis Lopardi's sound design--screeching of cars and restaurant music--convincingly set the aural scene. And the set, by Rob Wolin, was perfect--upside down golden arches and an orange-and-yellow color scheme pinpointed the exterior of "Willy's" fast-food restaurant. Janet Sarno directed the play with vigor.

Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Set: 2
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 1998 James A. Lopata