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A CurtainUp Review
The Ruffian on the Stair/Theme and Variations
Joe Orton is rarely performed these days, so an evening of one-acts by As I Am Productions, featuring The Ruffian on the Stair, is an uncommon treat. Or rather, it would be, if the production were better.
The Orton play is preceded by Theme and Variations, a new play by William Cotter whi ch is an extended soliloquy. An older woman is waiting on her 23-year-old lover to arrive, and she takes the opportunity to tell the audience about her past husbands and lovers. It's a one-woman Sex and the City, fast-forwarded twenty years. As is the danger with lengthy soliloquys, this one goes nowhere. There's no forward movement and no character development. Spring Condoyan's performance is heartfelt but one-note, meaning the play as a whole has no chance to escape becoming monotonous.
Orton's The Ruffian on the Stair, involves an older couple in 1964 London. Though they live together, they are unmarried, and to add further scandal, she is a former prostitute and he is a hit man for hire. One day, while he's "at work " a young stranger shows up and begins accosting the woman. He's looking for a nonexistent room to rent. Frightened, she asks her "husband" to step in the next time he shows up, but the two hit it off famously. Turns out he's come to avenge his brother's murder, and in the process, terrorizes the woman and forces the man to confront his sexuality. The next time he comes around, though, she is alone, and the situation spirals to an unexpected conclusion.
The small cast of Ruffian is adequate, but their accents are not. The young man (Nic Tyler) is best , but the other two lack chemistry, with Anne Pasquale's performance turning too shrill. Dunsten J. Cormack's direction is largely uninspired so that Orton's careful foray in working-class London receives a flat-footed treatment.
It's unclear why these plays are performed together. The woman in each is looking for love, but the connection ends there. Both plays would be better served if it were performed alone. Ruffian, being the longer piece, should at the very least be performed first. Unfortunately, there's not much to recommend in either as presented here.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co. Click image to buy.
Mendes at the Donmar
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
Click image to buy.
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