Talky Shows

The Playwrights Theater Festival of O'Neill

By Eugene O'Neill
Provincetown Playhouse
Equity showcase (closed)
Review by Marshall Yaeger

These three works were part of a decology O'Neill didn't want produced. The bare-bones production was of more than academic interest, however, because the quality of casting, directing, and acting, though imperfect in some cases, rose honorably to the material.

The problem was that the plays tried to accomplish too much. Thus A Wife for a Life, directed by Bradford Brown, portrayed a cocked-up Oedipus tale: an old panhandler wants to kill the young man who stole his wife's affections. Within 20 minutes he finds out the young man he loved as if he were his own son was that man, then settles his wife on him.

Kristoffer Polaha as the young man was a pleasure to watch, though his diction was sometimes less clear than his partner's, Mervin Haines, who was saddled with a lot of talky exposition. Meanwhile, Ray Trail in a minor role was only one of several actors who created effective and authentic costumes.

The Web (directed by Dan Rigazzi) introduced at least two compelling characters: a prostitute (Veronica Cruz) and her pimp (Fred Cabral). Ms. Cruz was consistently good showing a woman trying to balance the need to earn money with the responsibilities of motherhood and the burdens of sexual freedom.

Mr. Cabral oozed evil when he ordered his lover to give her baby to an orphanage so she could "pick up more coin" when she went "on the town."

"Orphanages are fine," he insisted. "I grew up in one myself!"

Steve Capone, as a next-door neighbor the prostitute never met, wasn't quite up to creating a man who, in 15 minutes, confessed to being a notorious bank robber on the lam, gave a stranger his stash, declared his love for her, and received her love in return-passionately on the mouth-despite her communicable tuberculosis.

But not to worry! The guy got killed and she got stuck with the rap. Boy, did that playwright ever know how to craft an okay plot!

Thirst (directed by Chris Brady) stranded three characters on a raft as perhaps the only survivors of a titanic collision with a coral reef. (No doubt the sinking of the real McCoy a year before this play was written helped inspire the idea.) Howard Atlee (an OOBR Sustained Achievement Awardee) played a hapless "Gentleman" who had so looked forward to his first vacation in 20 years. What is life all about, anyway?

Anna-Louise Plowman was fine as "The Dancer" who crawled like a snake, went mad, and offered her body for a swig of the water she was sure the "Negro" sailor (Mark S. Hamilton) was hiding. (Where?) Ominous and menacing throughout, Hamilton's one emphatic line ("I have no water!") exhibited tremendous power, mitigating (only somewhat) the several racist lines for which there no longer seems to be any satisfactory excuse-despite a Nobel Prize.

Anyway, the play's ending (read aloud) was so cinematic it could only work if filmed. The rest went down with the ship.

Box Score:

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

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Copyright 1998 Marshall Yaeger