Three one-act, three different experiences. You pays your money, you takes your choice.
LIFE SUPPORT is a one-joke shaggy-dog kind of play. It's an amusing farce set in an intensive-care unit, as the members of an accident victim's family act out their own agendas and argue about maintaining life support systems. Underlying tensions are revealed, and secrets come out which everyone knows anyway. The Patient (Jerry Prince Solomon) is up and about during all this, commenting on their actions and providing exposition. He is also rather simpleminded, the reason for which is explained in the play's punchline. C. Arthur Smith was fine as the patient's buffoonishly lockjawed father, and Judith J.K. Polson, Tara Ford, and Andrew Thaman contributed funny bits. Playwright Sean Deming and director Christopher Gladysz conspired to keep the final joke a silly surprise.
In Tikkun Olam: Repairing the World, Mag (Vera E. Chazen), Julia (Karen Asconi) and Rosie (Vonder Gray) are at a reunion where Mag is to give a speech, but is at a loss about what to say. This gives them the excuse to share memories of their "heart pounding moments," and compare their lives today. (Were people really how they seemed? How unexpectedly things turned out!) The result is a nicely acted but rather aimless drama. The ground that's covered is very familiar, but Chazen, Asconi, and especially Gray were so appealing that they gave greater resonance to the play than it otherwise would have had. When the characters forgave their younger selves and each other, they struck the right notes. No big surprises here, but it was nice to spend time with these women. William Greville appeared as various men in their stories, but this play is about girl power.
Last on the bill was Trusting Mr. Universe. Frieda (Lucy McMichael), a highly religious 88-year-old woman hires Vincent (Peter Carlino), a body builder of questionable background, as her errand boy/companion/maid. This odd-couple beginning has possibilities, but while the dialogue seems intended to be insightful, it is mostly strained and obvious. There's little basis for a developing friendship between the two characters; their quarrels make no points nor provide insight. (This is no Driving Miss Daisy; or Visiting Ms. Green.) Frieda says that she sees Vincent as her salvation, that she will look after him while he takes care of her. But since the characters have no depth, there can be no development; and when the play changes gear halfway through in a twist so obvious, it is, paradoxically, impossible to see it coming, all bets are off.
McMichael was not believable as an 88-year-old woman, but she had a twinkle in her eye that saw her through playwright Peter Valentyne's weird, unbelievable tangents. Carlino also tried hard, but could not budge the play. Director James A. Lopata bravely decided to stage it straightforwardly, but all three were defeated -- the most effective sequence involved cutting up onions. There was a funny line or two, but overall Trusting Mr. Universe was programmatic, diagrammatic, and dull.
Life Support and Tikkun Olam were played on a mostly bare stage. Trusting Mr. Universe had the furnishings of an old woman's apartment. The plays' effectiveness was in inverse proportion to their sets.
|Life Support||Tikkun Olam||Mr. Universe|