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Longacre Lea Productions - ARCHIVE
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The Oogatz Man & Artist Descending a Staircase
August 19 - September 13, 2009
Wednesday - Saturday at 7:30 pm
Sunday at 2 pm
Reviewed August 21 by Brad Hathaway

Two thought provoking one act plays that use language to explore intellectual issues
Running time 2:45 - one intermission
Tickets $12 - $18 

The logo for Kathleen Akerley's production company now sports the slogan "physical productions of cerebral works." What a perfect five-word description of the company and for this, their 2009 summer offering. Previous summers have brought us works by Pinter, Ionesco, Howard Barker, Mac Wellman and the authors of this pair - Tom Stoppard and Kathleen Akerley. This summer pairs a radio play that Stoppard then converted for stage production with a new piece by Akerley. Before curtain time for the pair I asked which she was doing first since there wasn't a printed program (the company is going "green" and is not passing out paper). She said "I may have an enormous ego, but even I wouldn't think of trying to follow Stoppard." So her piece came first. She needn't have worried about order. The strangely titled The Oogatz Man is not only capable of sharing the stage with the wittily titled lesser Stoppard, it is the better half of the two-part evening.

Storylines - The Oogatz Man: A man searches for the perfect music to break up by. Artist Descending a Staircase: A time-spanning debate over the meaning of art masquerading as a whodunit.

The Urban Dictionary tells us that "oogatz" means "nothing, nada." Not so in this case. Here it is the way the now-grown man pronounced his first word as a baby. He meant "music." It came out "oogatz" and it was the polar opposite of "nothing, nada." Music became the most important thing in the world to the man, even after he met and fell for a woman to whom music was a pleasant occasional diversion but hardly worth obsessing over. Akerley uses their different levels of musical appreciation to explore the interesting question: can a relationship work between two people when they share common values and viewpoints but don't share the same passion for something that is a paramount mania for one? In pursuing the overall theme for an hour, Akerley peoples the play with interesting characters - not just the couple at the core, but their neighbors, friends and even a mysterious "headphone man" brought to haunting life by Michael Glenn. Eric M. Messner is precise in his portrayal of the music maniac and Heather Haney is smoothly cool as his better balanced lady friend. Among the neighbors, Abby Wood scores strongest with her mix of mystic and guide to the strange side of existence.

Stoppard, being Stoppard, builds his brief excursion into the "what-exactly-is-'art'?" debate around a famous piece of art that itself stimulated much debate on the same question. Marcel Duchamp's painting "Nude Descending the Staircase, No. 2" was a pre-dada exercise in cubism that burst into public consciousness in 1913 as perhaps the most notorious item on display in the  "International Exhibition of Modern Art" at New York's Armory which became famous as simply "The Armory Show." Stoppard takes Duchamp quite a few steps further in his literary equivalent of cubism. Where Duchamp captured the cubistic "image" of his subject in a sequence of instances of time over the period it takes to walk down five or six steps of a stairway, Stoppard presents his subjects - three people with scintillating surfaces (they are, after all, artists) but of no discernable depth - over decades with their younger selves contrasted to their older ones. Through the years, they argue incessantly over the true nature of art. A seventh character is the most perceptive of the group ... and she's blind.

Neil McFadden makes significant contributions to both one-act plays in both music and sound effects. Akerley's play calls for a considerable amount of commercially-recorded music, most notably Metallica's "For Whom the Bell Tolls" because that is the song the hero needs to play as he breaks up with his girl-friend. Akerley's text has the hero not only play it, but explain exactly what the music's structure means to him. (It is a superb piece of writing about music that Akerley fashions here while paying homage to E. M. Forster's similar analysis of Beethoven's Fifth in Howard's End.) She also makes way for some original music of his own. For the Stoppard piece, it is sound effects rather than music that McFadden needed to provide - specifically the sound of an artist descending a staircase - in free fall. 

Written by  Kathleen Akerley and Tom Stoppard. Directed by Kathleen Akerley and Caitlin M. Smith. Design: Elizabeth Jenkins McFadden (set) Gail Stewart Beach (costumes) John Burkland (lights) Neil McFadden (original music and sound) Elliot Homburg (photography) Jenn Carlson and Maureen O'Rourke (stage managers). Cast: Tom Carman, Michael John Casey, Michael Glenn, Heather Haney, Jason Lott, Eric M. Messner, Richard Owens, Daniel Vito Siefring, Abby Wood.

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Theories of the Sun
August 13 - September 7, 2008
Reviewed August 16 by David Siegel

Running Time 3:00 one intermission
A satisfying evening on a tough topic: aging and dying

In this world premiere, Kathleen Akerley uses mystery and verbal sleight-of-hand to contemplate and puzzle through major life events that confront the central character and those who surround her. This eight actor play has rewards and deserves attention for its daring and cheek; flaws and all. There is some attention-grabbing dialogue, as well as nicely-turned character development and nuanced acting in an ultimately satisfying production. Abby Wood plays the central character with an initially unexplained medical affliction. She is in a wonderland not of her making and wants answers. She acts with a sweetness about her and an ďI want to know why this isĒ attitude. Her enigmatic nemesis, represented by Michael John Casey, is all pleasantries and hypnotic voice as he goes about his business using multi-cultural myths and stunning story-telling. Coming in at nearly three hours, the production is over-stuffed with some empty calories that add little to the playís progression. But, it is a rewarding evening for those willing to brazen out the twists and turns and cul-de-sacs set before the audience. This show may well appeal most to those tough old birds beginning to feel the bumps and bruises of life even if, in their own mindís eye, they remain in rip-roaring great health, possess a full, thick head of hair, and nothing is drooping under their clothes.

Story Line:  A play about community and loss, about the different ways grief is expressed and felt, and how pain is excised with ritual and humor. It takes place at a small hotel in France in 1963 where Tom Stoppard and Tennessee Williams are both staying when a mother and daughter come to consult with a doctor about the daughterís mysterious medical condition. The title comes from a number of myths told throughout the play of how the Sun came into existence and lived its life.

Playwright Akerley is known in the Potomac Region for her daring productions and acting. Here she has written a play bursting with vexing ideas, but with a meandering script which can seem a bit academically-based at times. She seems to be attempting a high-brow, secular, non-religious treatise, but has a tendency to add unnecessary literary flourishes and theatrical conceits. Some of the extras include the description of an ever changing dinner menu and references to beautiful poetry that would only be cheered by a PhD in Literature. Theater cognoscenti will give hosannas to the transparent homage to Tom Stoppard, as Stoppard and Tennessee Williams meet to chat about their distinct theater styles. Here is Williams, all heat and strong whiskey, and Stoppard, all cool and wine bound. As a co-director with Jonathan Church, Akerley has a deft touch, especially in physical presentations of intellectual matters. They have taken the script and molded it into a work accessible for a larger number of theater goers, but more trimming of theatrical flourishes would be good.

The script revolves around Woodís character, a woman whose baffling medical malady has affected her life and her relationships with friends and family. Wood is stiff at her entrance but softens and becomes much more warmly expressive over the course of the production. Her costumes change to more colorful peignoirs and pretty dresses that that hug her body and swirl as her hips turn. Casey is a charmer as a middle-aged man who wants to reach out and lay a hand on Wood, but not in the way that touching might normally mean. He is almost a religious icon in this very intellectual, non-faith based play which uses cultural myths about the birth of the Sun to stand in for Western religion. When he tells the stories about the birth and life of the Sun, he is at his pulpit: sonorous, melodious and enthralling. Kathleen Akerley moves through this production ably and at the end presents unexpected bravado while seeking certain assurances that are central to this playís arc. Michael Glennís "Tennessee Williams" and Dylan Pinterís "Tom Stoppard" seem to be thin characters and add a bit to the background, but little to the foreground of the central theme. Jason Stiles, as a man with his own mystifying existence, has the ability to render himself as a regular guy or something a bit different. Jason Lottís "Doctor" is the main levity of the evening. He is a hoot as he prods and probes, sniffs and grimaces. As he noses a small vial of urine to see what he can learn, he is either the greatest scientist or the most perverted. Daniel Vito Siefring, as the hotel proprietor, is all stuffiness and obsequious.

The Longacre Lea technical work is solid throughout. In Hannah J. Crowellís scenic design, the Callahan theater space is given a summery look with a 2-tier patio setting with white patio furniture and a number of doors and windows. The lighting is especially lush amber when Sun stories are depicted. Sound affects are generous from the pouring of wine to the buzzing sounds that can be heard in oneís head. Costumes for the women change throughout the production showing various internal journeys; the men remain in the same well-healed clothes throughout.

Written by Kathleen Akerley. Co-directed by Kathleen Akerley and Jonathon Church. Choreographed by Heather Haney. Design: Hannah J. Crowell (set) Gail Stewart Beach (costumes) John Burkland (lights), Neil McFadden (sound) Jesse Terrill (original music) Clinton Brandhagen (photography) Jessica Pearson (stage manager.) Cast: Kathleen Akerley, Michael John Casey, Michael Glenn, Jason Lott, Dylan Pinter, Daniel Vito Siefring, Jason Stiles, Abby Wood.

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August 15 - September 9, 2007
The Hothouse
Reviewed by Brad Hathaway

Running time 2:15 - one intermission
t A Potomac Stages Pick for a progressive descent into bureaucratic insanity
Click here to buy the script

Sometimes, when you say that the most entertaining part of a play is intermission, it is a nasty remark. Not so, here. The intermission routine, which carries on even as the audience takes a break, is a connection between a genuinely compelling first act and a more confusing continuation in act two. Together, the two halves form an enjoyable if somewhat incomprehensible whole which is delivered with polish and panache by an absolutely superb cast including well known Potomac Region actors such as Michael John Casey, Michael Glenn and Jason Lott as well as less well known but no less capable newcomers Daniel Vito Siefring and Dylan Pinter. Together they tackle Harold Pinter's challenging play about a day in a mental institution with a sense of adventure under Kathleen Akerley's always intelligent direction.

Storyline: The incompetent administrator of a mental institution is astonished to find, on Christmas day no less, that one of the inmates has given birth to a boy child. He's further astonished to learn that she claims that she can't be certain of the paternity since most of the staff has had relations with her. (The hint of a biblical nativity passes quickly here.) The search for the father turns the institution upside down, almost as much as does the request of the understaff for a Christmas address from the administrator.

As is often the case with a Harold Pinter play, language is more than words. It is the structure of expression that marks the text and gives the cast a great deal with which to work. An intriguing and outlandish beginning swirls off into confusing but no less intriguing territory before the evening is done. It is the skill of Kathleen Akerley that keeps this production so coherent and entertaining. For one thing, she has an obvious love of the intellectual approach to dialogue that is the essence of this verbal circus. For another, she mounts the entire play with an earnestness and high sense of seriousness that allows the wit and cleverness of the dialogue to shine. But her most important contribution appears to be in casting the production in the first place.

Michael John Casey is delightfully precise in the opening moments of the play as the totally in-command but completely incompetent administrator. His enunciation, his manner and his gestures are razor sharp. As the administrator's command of his situation deteriorates, so does Casey's portrayal show all the appropriate rough edges. By the second act, he's disheveled and even a bit pallid (with the help of what appears to be some grey makeup, at that). Michael Glenn's smooth sycophant of a second in command is a superb foil. Jason Lot, Abby Wood and Jonathon Church all do nifty work as well as the staff. The two newcomers, Siefring and Pinter, take small roles and deliver equally sharp and detailed performances as the spokesman for the "understaff" and as an administrator in the headquarters the institution reports to.

Elizabeth Jenkins McFadden has provided a unit set for the piece that is imaginative and memorable, with a central structure of various levels before a deteriorating hot-house wall of sheet plastic. Add Gail Stewart Beach's character-driven wardrobe and Neil McFadden's soundscape, and the atmosphere of the piece feels just right.

Written by Harold Pinter. Directed by Kathleen Akerley. Design: Elizabeth Jenkins McFadden (set) Gail Stewart Beach (costumes) Annie Alesandrini (properties) John Burkland (lights) Neil McFadden (sound) Elliot Homburg (photography) Megan Reichelt (stage manager). Cast: Michael John Casey, Jonathon Church, Michael Glenn, Jason Lott, Dylan Pinter, Daniel Vito Siefring, Abby Wood.

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August 16 - September 10, 2006
Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead

Running time 3 hours - 2 intermissions
Great wordplay in a meandering plot

Click here to buy the script

Kathleen Akerley directs Tom Stoppard's famous dark comedy about two of Hamlet's friends. Her concentration is on the bright dialogue exchanges not only between the two title characters but the rest of the small cast as well. Since that cast includes a number of very gifted actors working together in fine ensemble fashion, there are many moments of inspired wordplay and not a few very effective pieces of physical acting that are to be savored. However, at a full three hours, the evening drags even as individual moments enchant. The lack of a solid plotline or even much suspense is its downfall. Given Stoppard's adherence to the structure of Shakespeare's tragedy, the vast majority of the audience knows how the play will end long before either Rosencrantz or Guildenstern do. After all, practically every experienced theatergoer knows how Hamlet ends and those who don't should have no difficulty anticipating the denouement. The cleverness of Stoppard's writing, for all its brilliance at dialogue, is insufficient to make the audience care enough about just how he will bring events to their inevitable conclusion to carry their attention along to the end.

Storyline: One of the innumerable "back stories" of Shakespeare's Hamlet shows the two menial members of the castle population who are used by Claudius to spy on "The Melancholy Dane." Most of the play takes place in those moments the pair aren't on stage in the Bard's play.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead was the breakthrough for Tom Stoppard. Indeed, it was first produced as an amateur piece and then had a professional premier at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival of 1966. Since then both play and author have gone on to substantial success. It is easy to see why it would wow fringe festival audiences, especially if it were given a quality performance by actors who could pull off its complicated blend of light banter and hidden meaning. Whatever the qualities of the cast in Scotland in 1966, the cast here in Washington forty years later is fist rate.

Jonathon Church and Jason Stiles are Guildenstern and Rosencrantz, or is that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern? (It is a running gag of the piece that their identities keep getting mixed up, just as Hamlet appears to mix them up in Scene II of Shakespeare's Act II.) Both are delights as first Stiles and then Church seems to have the upper hand intellectually, but neither character really has a grasp of the world they inhabit. Watching the two work together is the primary pleasure of the evening. Add to that very sharp work by Michael John Casey as the player who seems to know a great deal about the play, Hamlet, and really enjoyable work by Michael Glenn as the Hamlet character himself, and you have many great moments to distract you from looking at your watch, wondering just how much longer this is going to last.

Abby wood's clever set design provides for entrances and exits from three principal directions, not just two. Characters can enter or exit stage right or stage left, but much of the time the raked platform of the stage provides space behind the playing area for actors to jump off or climb into the world of the action. The platform is riddled with trap doors through which characters pass, and is lined with jagged, rippling slits which shine with light from within.

Written by Tom Stoppard. Directed by Kathleen Akerley. Design: Abby Wood (set) Gail Stewart Beach (costumes) John Burkland (lights) Michael Glenn (sound) Elliot Homburg (photography) Annie Alesandrini (properties and stage management). Cast: Michael John Casey, Jonathon Church, Michael Glenn, Jason Lott, Jason Styles, Alexander Strain.

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August 10 - September 4, 2005
Energumen and The Real Inspector Hound

Reviewed August 25
Running time 2:10 - one intermission:
Two contrasting short pieces
 - one is a kick but the other is a drag

 Click here to buy the Stoppard script

A double bill of short pieces is directed by Kathleen Akerley with her trademark accent on the words being spoken. The cast throws itself into each piece with a great deal of energy and a lot of intelligence. The energy is particularly impressive for Tom Stoppard's The Real Inspector Hound which is both intriguing and a great deal of fun, while the intelligence helps, but can't quite put over, Mac Wellman's nearly impenetrable muddle, Energumen. Both plays require close attention and offer a few really striking moments. Akerley's emphasis on the spoken word doesn't preclude some really well developed sight gags, however. In Energumen she turns a shooting gallery concept into a
burlesque of the James Bond movie credit sequences with Santa Clauses as the targets (don't ask). In The Real Inspector Hound two theater critics pull out pens with built in lights for note taking in the dark with Michael Glenn especially going through motions that would justify amending the normal pre-show announcement to "please turn off cell phones, pagers and lighted pens."

Storylines: Mac Wellman's one act play involves the effort to deprogram a young woman caught up in a cult. Tom Stoppard's spoof of British whodunits draws two theater critics from the audience into the action.

First things first - what does "energumen" mean? It isn't listed in many modern dictionaries, but if you go back to the 1913 issue of Webster you find it means "one possessed by an evil spirit." Ah, that's what this is all about! Wellman, the author of innumerable plays with flippant titles from Bodacious Flapdoodle to 7 Blowjobs (which Kathleen Akerley directed back in 2002), makes it a play about words - words poured out, spit out and savored. Ostensibly, the words add up to the story of a deprogramming performed by one nicely named "Mr. Nutley" (Hugh T. Owen). At one point it is observed that "Mr.Nutley is fond of fractured parable." The same could be said of Mr. Wellman.

Things pick up considerably after intermission, although it may take some audience members awhile to catch on to the gag. The play starts well before anything is going on on stage. Two newspaper critics arrive and take their seats in the audience and chat amiably. Once the action begins on stage, however, they turn their attention to the task at hand - momentarily. Stoppard's inventiveness even extends to inserting two mock intermissions so we can eavesdrop on the critics sharing views of the play. Michael Glenn and Jason Stiles are hilarious as the critics while the spoof of a whodunit plays itself out on stage with a mannered mania from the balance of the cast including a wonderfully befuddled Carlos Bustamante as the titular inspector.

Set designer Matt Soule uses the long central playing space in the Callan Theatre with a flair that adds to but doesn't distract from either play. With rotating panels at the rear for the first piece, the transition from locale to locale is swift and unobtrusive, with the set drawing attention only at intended points. For the second piece, he brings things down front with a see-through structure at the very lip of the stage which helps connect the supposed "critics" in the audience to the action in the on-stage spoof. It works very well indeed.

Written by Tom Stoppard and Mac Wellman. Directed by Kathleen Akerley. Design: Matt Soule (set) Gail Stewart Beach (costumes) Kathleen Akerley and Katie Clemmons (properties) Andrew Griffin (lights) Kathleen Akerley and Michael Dove (sound) Elliot Homburg (photography). Cast:  Carlos Bustamante, Jonathon Church, Jeanne Dillon, Melissa-Leigh Douglass, Marybeth Fritzky, Michael Glenn, Hugh T. Owen, Jason Stiles, Abby Wood.

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August 11 - September 5, 2004
Man With Bags

Reviewed August 15
Running time 2:30 - one intermission

Click here to buy the script

"I want you to know, this is totally confusing to me" says the Man With Bags early in this slice of absurdism which Kathleen Akerley brings to vibrant life with a superb cast. That she makes the evening a coherent if still enigmatic whole is due to her taking the author, Eugene Ionesco, at his word when he puts into the mouth of one character the statement "Everything I think, everything I am, is in the manuscript." Akerley places great emphasis on the text in the manuscript but she embellishes it with strong visual elements. Her particular achievement here is to deploy those visuals so as not to distract from the text but still fill in what would otherwise be an exercise in confusion.

Storyline: An unidentified man arrives in a strange land and a strange time with just two bags to his name, searching for something. The something turns out to be his third bag but it may also be his worldly goods or even his family. He may have lost his belongings or he may have killed his family or he may never have had a past. His dealings with the officials of this strange land are stranger still since he lacks proper documentation and can't even provide basic information such as his mother's maiden name. Clues fall in place, bringing memory back but he's not at all certain he wants the answers to his questions.

Ionesco's brand of theater of the absurd comes closer to absurd theater than that of many others such as Samuel Beckett (Waiting for Godot) or Jean Genet (Deathwatch). By giving the audience a view of an insane world through the eyes of a presumably sane observer he creates a disturbing dissonance that is absent from those others. This 1975 play came late in his career, some fifteen years after his most famous work, Rhinoceros

This man with bags is Jason Stiles who plays the role strait, a picture of rationality in an irrational world. He responds to the absurdities of Ionesco's imaginings as would a member of the audience with initial belief in the ability of logic and rational behavior to unravel the problems he is facing, followed by frustration at the way the world seems to be getting stranger and finally with a sense of anger and desperation. He's accompanied through much of what transpired by James Flanagan who plays one of the bags, a scampering presence with a harness creating a handle by which he can be carried.

Taking multiple roles in the absurd world into which Stiles' Man has fallen are such fascinating to watch actors as Michael John Casey, Hugh T. Owen, Peter Wylie and Nanna Ingvarsson. Each appearance is essentially a cameo but each actor has many of them. For instance, Ingvarsson has ten different characters ranging from "Memory of Mother" to "Old Woman Who Turns Young" while Wylie goes from simple "Doctor" to the incredibly titled "Guy With Insight into the World." 

Written by Eugene Ionesco. Directed by Kathleen Akerley. Design: Joseph B. Musumeci (set) Gail Stewart Beach (costumes) Kathleen Akerley, Annie Alesandrini and Abby Wood (properties) John Burkland (lights) Neil McFadden (sound) Laura Smith (stage manager). Cast: Michael John Casey, Jonathon Church, Melissa-Leigh Douglass, James Flanagan, Michael Glenn, Nanna Ingvarsson, Jarrod Jabre, Jason Lott, Hugh T. Owen, Jason Stiles, Peter Wylie.

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August 13 - September 7, 2003
The Power of the Dog

Reviewed August 17
Running time 2 hours 30 minutes

The opening scene of Howard Barkerís play is the strongest of the night. It finds Stalin welcoming Churchill to Moscow at the end of World War II and the two men rely on the extremely limited talents of their respective translators to attempt a meaningful conversation. It is a lost cause, which the audience can easily understand because all four lines of dialogue - Churchill, Churchillís interpreter, Stalin, Stalinís interpreter - are delivered in English so that the inadequacy of each attempted translation is clear. Add Stalinís paranoia and Churchillís inebriation and you have the ingredients for a scene that is both hilarious and meaningful. It would be too much to expect that the rest of the evening would rise to such heights, but there are some nicely absurd moments and a few touching ones in the remaining two hours.

Storyline: A loosely connected set of scenes in Russia at the height of Soviet Power as World War II comes to an end questions the value of being the victor in such a destructive war, the worth of being a survivor when so little humanity remains and the difficulty of dealing with the guilt over what it took to survive.  

Barker, British playwright, poet and essayist, takes his absurdity quite seriously, as do the director, designers and performers of this, the professional American premiere of his 1985 play. It is structured with care, building its impact by tying threads together from one illogical event to another. Themes such as Stalinís obsessive mistrust of everyone and everything, the need of a film-maker to capture the ďtruthĒ of a subject way too large to even be sampled and the fate of a single woman seen hanging from the rafters weave through explosions of witticisms. It is meant to be disturbing and it succeeds through much of the evening.

Director Kathleen Akerley moves a large cast about a large playing space with precision, moving major events from upstage to down and from left to right to focus attention on the key element of each scene or event. It is an effective way to heighten the sense of absurdity for it places irrational events in high relief. The realistic set emphasizes that sense of authenticity with tall red drapes, grey brickwork, patterned floor and, most importantly, a huge mirror set at an angle so the reflection of the action is visible to the audience in the bank of seats at the front. The effectiveness of Joseph B. Musumeciís set is enhanced by the sharply focused lighting effects of Adam Magazine, the large wardrobe assembled by costume designer Gail Stewart Beach and the overall feeling of realism is further enhanced by the sound of Russian music ranging from Mussorgsky to Shostakovich. 

With Michael Glenn doing a very funny take on a drunken Churchill, Jason Stiles strutting as Stalin and John Tweel, Jean Dillon, Dan Brick and Fiona Blackshaw standing out in multiple roles, it is Dan Via as a Scottish Vaudevillian turned into court jester/fool that captures the absurdity of the situations most succinctly. His tongue lashes with wit at some points and darts lizard-like at others. Viewed through his eyes, the events of this mid-twentieth century turning point of history make very little sense -- but that is entirely the point.

Written by Howard Barker. Directed by Kathleen Akerley. Design: Joseph B. Musumeci (set) Gail Stewart Beach (costumes) Adam Magazine (lights) Dennis Manuel and Kathleen Akerley (sound) Kathleen Wilber (stage manager). Cast: Charlie M. Berfield, Fiona Blackshaw, Dan Brick, Michael John Casey, Jonathan Church, Jeanne Dillon, Michael Glenn, H. Clare Johnson, Erika Sheffer, Jason Stiles, John Tweel, Dan Via, Abby Wood.

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August 14 Ė September 1, 2002
Ionesco Ė Stoppard Ė Pinter

Reviewed August 18
Running time 2 hours 55 minutes
Price range $8-$15

One delightful short play can whet an appetite. Two amusing one act pieces can satisfy. But three otherwise enjoyable works can start to overwhelm, the cumulative effect doing damage to the individual pieces. This is especially true when, as in this triptych, each of the pieces is a finely crafted, intricately structured work that rewards close examination and contemplation. In this three-play lengthy evening, too many good things can, in fact, be too much of a good thing.

Storyline: Director Kathleen Akerley finds a unifying theme for three one act plays in their setting. The thing they have in common is that they each take place in a single room. She makes that room a character that runs through the entire evening. In the first play, Eugene Ionescoís The Bald Soprano, it is an elegant living room where hosts and guests test the limits of language in chit-chat that puts more emphasis on saying something than on what is said. In Tom Stoppardís After Magritte, the room has declined somewhat in social status as it is the living room of a family under interrogation by a pompous investigator. Finally, in Harold Pinterís The Dumb Waiter, the room houses two thugs killing time before an unspecified but clearly illegal "job."

Fans of literate theater have come to look to Longacre Lea for intriguing evenings and this one will add to the reputation this four year old troupe. For this compilation they have recruited a cast of ten familiar faces from the pool of talent that works professional theater in the area. Suzanne Richards demonstrates a keen sense of absurd language to match Michael John Casey while Carlos Bustamante gets bluster just right and Michael Glenn does the same with dour demeanor. They all have been provided with a single room set designed by David Ghatan to appear somewhere between stark reality and Aliceís wonderland as the railing on one wall is architecturally pure while on another wall it is all forced perspective and the crown molding wraps around into nothingness.

The two plays with the most humor, the first two in the program, work well together even if they were written twenty years apart. Ionescoís conversational flights of fancy include the type of extension-of-logic humor that bridges the gap between the innocence of a Gracie Allen and the skepticism of a George Carlin. Once character wonders why newspaper obituaries always report the age of the deceased but birth announcements never give the age of the newly born. The central couple in Stoppardís play argue briefly over the requirement of caring for a tuba-playing in-law, but then canít remember just whose in-law she is. The introduction of an officious police detective investigating a crime that may or may not have happened and which they may or may not have any connection to turns the piece into a cockeyed Rashomon.

The third play of the evening bogs down both because it has been preceded by two sparklers and because it is intrinsically less intriguing. Structurally, Pinterís play is simpler and more straight forward than the others and the language is earthier. When matched with other plays of a similar sense it would be more likely to impress.

Written by Eugene Ionesco, Tom Stoppard and Harold Pinter. Directed by Kathleen Akerley. Design: David Ghatan (set) Gail Stewart (costumes) Adam Magazine (lights). Cast: Lidsay Allen, Dan Brick, Carlos Miguel Bustamante, Michael John Casey, Michael Glenn, Hugh T. Owen, Jennifer Phillips, Suzanne Richard, Jason Stiles, Ellen Young.