Saturday, February 28, 2009

review - Misconceptions

7 mini-plays
written by Art Shulman
directors: Shulman, Wynn Marlow,
Kaz Mata Mura, Stan Mazin, Kristina Lloyd
through March 29
A mixed bag, the best being Waitress starring Nancy Van Iderstine and Pigeons also with Iderstine, Fox Carney and Patrick Burke. Iderstine's work is riveting, by far the best in the evening. Other playlets show promise, but fall somewhat short, due to uninspired acting or uneven direction.
Shulman's concept thread for the plays is fairly consistent. The idea being that each character may be radically different from the way we first perceive them, the way others perceive them, or the way they perceive themselves. The theme fairs best in those playlets already mentioned and - the first entry Beggars, in which a homeless man (Bob McCollum) takes advantage of - in fact, seduces - a recovery missioner (Cynthia Bryant). At the end both characters are better off. He has work, self-esteem and she has a new man - one she can trust. The actors are both well cast and just plain fun to watch, especially McCollum. Bryant should avoid self-awareness; it makes her somewhat wooden.
Another with a strong premise is Measuring in which a young man (Robert Minsky) seeks to find the truth about his father, a homeless soul supposedly killed in an accident. Larry Margo plays the man's best friend - also homeless, sleeping on a park bench, whom the young man suspects may very well be the father. Shulman exhibits a real sense of caring and a sweetness with this one, well directed by Kaz Mata Mura. It does play a tad too hastily in spots, however, with major details unraveling unrealistically fast. Margo suits his role, but Minsky needs to pace himself better and fully appreciate his character's wants and needs.
Pigeons, as mentioned already, is a delight, with performances, direction and writing - perfect, as is Iderstine's wonderful solo turn in Waitress, fluidly directed by Stan Mazin. The waitress is the most believable character as written. Every actor can relate to her, especially via Iderstine's tender portrait.
Another fun entry is the finale Discussion After the Play Reading, with Fox Carney highly amusing as the pompous playwright. Laurie Morgan and Wynn Marlow both lend solid support.
The Hole is a tedious entry. Its solo actor Diane Frank needs to find her center in telling the story. As is, her past life, as it relates to the present, is lacking depth and credibility. This is also the case with Graveside, in which Shulman plays a dying man at the graves of his parents. It exemplifies self-indulgence at its worst. The monologue's emotional focus gets totally drowned in self-pity.
Overall, not a bad effort, with some very good performances and finely-tuned direction.
Plays Saturday mats at 2pm and Sunday eves at 7pm thru March 29!
3 out of 5 stars


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