Doo-rang! Doo-rang!

Greater New York: A Week of Christopher Durang

J.E.T. Productions
Chelsea Arts Center
Non-union production (closed)
Review by Andrès J. Wrath

The plays of Christopher Durang are a mixture of both style and psychology. To perform one of his plays, one must play the fantastical elements and yet be grounded within the framework that the often brillant Mr. Durang has crafted. When one plays only the absurdity, his plays seem empty, and yet when he is played only for the horror the play is unfunny. J.E.T. Productions performed two of his monologues and two of his one-acts with a good mixture of absurdity and terror.

It is not surprising that the two monologues, Mrs. Sorken and Woman Stand Up, should go together and open the evening. Where Mrs. Sorken is a loving homage to the theatre, Woman Stand Up is about one woman riffing on stage about her life that is more horrifying and embarrassing than funny, and the only redemption in sight is provided by a laugh track that covers up her unpleasantness. Acted with expert precision by Janice Kirkel and directed with minute detail by Richard Troiano, Mrs. Sorken was a woman wound up tight; to our delight she unwound like a tornado, beautifully and hilariously. Sherri Langsam's Woman Stand Up was an open wound being doused with salt water. She was so painfully aware of her tragedy that we couldn't help but laugh at her awkward stand-up routine that at best was a horror show. As directed by Jason Schafer, the absurdity was mixed with the sadistic with much humanity and pathos.

The two one-acts expound on the themes of the monologues. Naomi in The Living Room offers a mixture of the sadistic and the funny; For Whom the Southern Bell Tolls is a vintage homage to Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie.

Naomi in The Living Room as directed and acted by Gloria Seron showed a screaming, whining, grab-all-the-attention kind of mom that could have benefited from having a less-indicated approach and being played more truthfully. Ms. Seron's Naomi seemed more TV sitcom crazy than seriously disturbed. Bill Berg as the Son being reacquainted with his mom was under--directed, but Marina Valle as his wife seemed very grounded and moving.

For Whom the Southern Bell Tolls was winning even though everything seemed overdone - it made the term "over the top" seem like an understatement. But Jason Kendall directed his cast - Robert Cividanes, Robert Marc Resnick, Donna Stearns, and Alexandra West - in a side-splitting romp into Menagerie-land that would make the most jaded fall down and crack up.

The uncredited sets lent an unobtrusive simplicity that was refreshing, and the lights were warm and lush and added much to an already first-rate production.

Box Score:

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

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Copyright 1999 Andrès J. Wrath