No way

Three Ways

By Matthew D. Barton
Directed by Rich Gershberg
Presented by The Alamo Players and SWT-NY
Studio Theatre
416 W. 42nd St. (591-2840)
Non-union production (closes June 26)
Review by Sheila Mart

Three Ways is a mercifully short, three-character piece, running just under an hour. The premise, although not original (it has been used before by authors like Somerset Maugham and Rod Serling, and in the film Rashomon) has great potential. It purports to show three different interpretations of one event, from each character's point of view. Now, if the "event" was something more riveting than the disappearance or implied theft of a bottle of vegetable oil, and the characters were not shallow, college-type kids obsessed with sex, it might have worked. As it is, the result is boring - and predictable, and the audience couldn't care less about any of the characters. This is a wannabe ménage-a-trois situation that would probably have been pulled off with a modicum of panache had it been written by a Frenchman. Alas, this production lacked both attributes.

There is no story - just a series of short repetitive scenes punctuated by blackouts, which are meant to serve as switches to the different characters' views on the so-called event.

The characters involved - Lisa, who appears to be living with her boyfriend Ted, and Runner (one would assume a college friend of Ted's) - were all performed passably well, given the paucity of the material the actors were given. Of the three of them, Jo Haney (Lisa) faired the best. She at least made worthy attempts at showing different reactions to the behavior of Ted and Runner in their opposing views of the theft or disappearance of that vegetable oil, despite the fact that she constantly alludes to the possible salacious uses of that oil.

The men, Drew Wheeler (Ted) and Matthew D. Barton (Runner) did not really give performances, but then there was very little to perform. Both characters exhibit a combination of misogynistic behavior and poor imitations of the worst of the '60s men who are trying to be so "hip" about their drugs and sexual exploits, but are not.

Rich Gershberg's direction was masterful in that it showed a sophistication worthy of better material.

As a writer, Matthew D. Barton would be well-advised to consider ideas - preferably with some form of plot, which might then engender more-rounded characters.

There was no credit given to a specific lighting designer, but whoever was in charge of that did a commendable job.

The same lack of credit applied to the set designer. The set amounted to a couch, a chair, and a coffee table, the combination of which adequately gave the appearance of a living room.

As for the costumes - they were regular casual, rehearsal-type garb - again no one was credited.

Box Score:

Writing: 0
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Set: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 1999 Sheila Mart