Caught in the Act, Program B

Five short plays by Rene de Obaldia, Konstanty Ildefons Galczynski, Arthur Schnitzler, and Manuel de Pedrolo
The Threshold Theater Company
145 Ave. of the Americas (647-0202)
Equity showcase (closes Oct. 5)
Review by Chris Van Groningen

A bare stage and short plays so open to interpretation - these are ingredients for magical, strong, gripping theatre. Unfortunately, the Threshold Theater Company's evening of short plays (Program B of three) fell short of producing anything magical. Whether because of lack of funds or imagination, it is disappointing to report such valuable potential squandered.

In Cruma, by Manuel de Pedrolo (translated from the Catalan by George E. Wellwarth; directed by Pamela Billig), an existential piece about the nature of reality and persona, two delightfully centered and vibrant performances elevated this production above the others. Eleanor Ruth and David Heymann (Nagaio and Visitor respectively) met the play head on. These actors did not try to fill their dialogue with subtext, preferring instead to trust the lighthearted, absurd nature of the play - thereby allowing the audience to enjoy the rapid verbal wit. (Costumes by Anita D. Ellis.)

The best-made and most realistic play of the evening is Schnitzler's Living Hours. Here there are two characters who love a third, dead character. Husband (Richard M. Davidson) and son (Robert Weldon) are mourning the recent death of their wife and mother respectively. At first is seems as though this is an ordinary story about working through the death of a loved one. But as the story unfolds, a truly cold and shocking relationship between the two survivors emerges. The secrets of this play are stunning and fascinating. In this production, however, those secrets were obvious, due to the uninspired acting. The audience was robbed of the opportunity to feel for these characters - and this play offers that opportunity more than any other of the evening. (Translated from the German by Grace Isabel Colbron; directed by Mitchell Greenberg; costumes by Anita D. Ellis.)

In The Late Lamented, by Rene de Obaldia, the evening's opener, again there are two characters who were in love with the same person, this time a violent but charismatic man. They meet in what has become a daily ritualistic dance of verbal sparring. These women are hopelessly connected to one another, each needing the other for validation, each needing to dispose of the other to win. As directed by Norman Rose (though marred with a ludicrous sound cue), the performances were always safe and never came near the violence at the play's core. In fact, the actresses (Jane House and Carolyn Dempsey) seemed somewhat confused by the play. (Translated from the French and directed by Norman Rose; costumes by Rob Bevenger.)

The two shortest plays, The Tragic End of Mythology and Greedy Eve, from Konstanty Ildefons Galczynski's The Little Theater of the Green Goose, both approximately one minute in length, took longer to prepare for than they did to be performed. They didn't even register. (Translated from the Polish by Daniel Gerould; directed by the Company; costumes by Anita D. Ellis.)

The lack of vision from the directors, and the safety of the acting, were this evening's largest drawbacks. (Sound by Rich Beenders; lighting by Paul Jones.)

copyright 1997 Chris Van Groningen

Box Score:
Writing 1
Directing 1
Acting 1
Set 1
Costumes 1
Lighting 1