These satiric one-acts by an octogenarian Russian playwright are
practically unknown; but obviously both she and her plays are
favorites of the multi-talented, European-trained director.
In The Excluded, the prison director of a town located somewhere in Europe receives a visitor he has expected for some time. It is the last remaining free citizen of the town, who demands to be arrested and imprisoned so that he can be with his family and friends, every one of whom was long ago incarcerated.
The man's loneliness is terrible. He can no longer cope with daily life. ("There're no pizzerias!" he exclaims, in what seems to be an intercalated translation by the director and Sandra Nordgren.)
Daniel Asher, who played the poor sap, had a rubber face and plenty of athletic ability to endure being tossed about. He was thoroughly convincing, although it wasn't clear why his character, when finally offered a chance to join his friends at the movies in the prison theatre, refused.
Probably didn't suit the author's plan, which was to make the point that you need at least one free man to maintain a prison state.
Joyce Storey joined the action as a prison officer; and Dan Thorens, who directed both plays, and who played the prison director languidly but intensely, performed an erotic violation of his female assistant entirely through movement. Since there was no hint of the sex of his antagonist in the script, could this choice have been made to make a more interesting evening?
A third eye might have censored such ploys, and might have insisted on picking up the pace. The actors rewardingly took their time; but the meager staging made the evening too realistically prison-like. (The audience was even ordered out during intermission!)
Things got brighter in The Idiot, if you can call the insane behavior of a bureaucrat from Hell, performed by Katherine Hinchey, bright. Making herself a cross between Gilda Radner, Eleanor Roosevelt, and a moose (in real life she's really quite pretty!) she piled tic upon eccentricity, constantly topping herself. Thus, she burped, flirted, lisped, cried, tapped her fingernails, sang Mozart, spit, tippy-toed her chair forward, twirled her feet, and walked like a drunken robot - all quite marvelously.
Not to be outdone, Mel England as the poor fool who stopped by her office (climbing through an honest-to-God trapdoor!) to get her signature, did some tap-dancing for himself. He even did a cartwheel.
The lighting design by Douglas Filomena was a bit too ambitious for so few instruments. Thus the audience was swathed in chiaroscuro upon entering (interesting but not practical while trying to read the program), and the resulting hot spots tended to distract.
Some musically scored sound montages by Filomena and Thorens were quite impressive.
Lighting 1/Sound: 2
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Copyright 1998 Marshall Yaeger