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LETTERS TO EDITOR
|A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
They Did a Bad, Bad Thing
By Laura Hitchcock
Two brave young playwrights are sharing the stage with Tennessee Williams in a trio of one-acts investigating responses to the forces behind war, deceit and oppression: the THEY in the title.
Nick Starr's satiric Songs of Forgettance skewers propaganda in the svelte cliché-ridden forms of Lena and Lloyd Filigree, whose songs inspire the troops. Their 1940s costumes and the ON THE AIR radio sign project the World War II era. However, the ghosts who open and close the show lost their lives in the Battle of Glendale, as Lloyd and Lena discover when the swami to whom they turn for help after they were fired for making less money than their opposite numbers betrays their naïve trust and sends them off to the netherworld. Christine Nelson and Erik Johnson perfectly catch the self-involved tunnel vision of this natty pair, and Nelson's soprano is a real asset. The brisk production is cleanly directed by Jason Lambert who exaggerates melodramatic conventions to underline timeless delusions.
The Common Cold is a wonderful title for Matthew I. Swaye's powerful, sensitive and inventive family tragedy. Mary (Heidi Pease), in combat fatigues, literally holds herself in while saying goodbye to her lover Roger (Ryan Falkner) and refusing to tell him anything about their baby whom she gave up for adoption. In the second scene, she pounds on the door of the couple's house, begging for a sight of the child. Scene Three depicts Mary's invalid mother Tamarah (Eve Curtis) and brother Gene (Bacchus Stuart). The war around them has made them brutal to each other and, though they both desperately need love, they can't exchange it. In the final scene, Roger comes to Tamarah who reads his diary and tenderly kisses his eyelids. But he hasn't just come for comfort. He gives it, too, physically, disturbingly but tenderly. John Stuart directed the excellent cast with a sure instinct for the play's depths and values. Max Pierson designed the stunning lighting projection of an oak tree in the first scene. No set designer is credited for the powerful wooden doors in the second.
The Chalky White Substance is very different from most of Tennessee Williams' oeuvre. Again we're in a bleak country whose citizens are subject to oppression by the authorities. Here Mark (Dylan Kenin) observes his lover Luke (Ronnie Alvarez) in silence for an hour. When he does approach him, he aggressively clamps his hands over Luke's eyes and seems obsessed with jealousy. He then turns Luke's confession of hoarding a secret spring in defiance of the law into an opportunity to destroy Luke so that he may claim the bounty. But is that the real reason? Tinges of Williams' themes of aggression and betrayal in A Streetcar Named Desire shadow this work. More schematic than his last impressionistic plays, it nevertheless has the power that holds an audience. Kenin is a fierce and mesmerizing presence and Alvarez projects a tousled charm. Director Andrea Canales finds the pain.
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers
The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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