May 27, 2009
THREE ON A PARTY. STEIN AND TENNESSEE - OH MY!
LEE HARTGRAVE REVIEWS
May 27, 2009
THREE ON A PARTY
WHAT A GREAT COMBINATION ‘WORD FOR WORD’ AND THEATRE RHINOCEROS MAKE --THE COMBINATION IS COMBUSTIBLE. IT’S THE MOST ADDICTIVE EVENING OF THEATRE YOU’RE LIKELY TO SEE!
MISS FURR AND MISS SKEENE – by Gertrude Stein
The plays start out with Gertrude Stein’s “Miss Furr and Miss Skeene” and it is absolutely hilarious. The short play is set in 1910 America and Paris. You will hear the word “Gay” frequently in this play – with words like “She is regularly Gay”. Almost every other word is ‘Gay’ – and used in the most intriguing and upper class way.
As you probably know – “Word for Word’s” mission is to tell good stories with simple and elegant, down to the bone acting that keeps your eyes glued to the stage. And when they say “Word for Word” they mean everything. You even hear the Author’s directions (setup) for the next scene. Plus, the staging is always fresh, and inventive.
Miss Furr and Miss Skeene (Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas) show us a fun look at these two women’s lives. It’s a Bohemian world where everyone is using coded words to mean something different than most people would think it would mean. It was an artistic time – and unusual antics in those days were not all that suspicious. There were rumors of course – but that was all there was. Most people probably just thought that the two women were eccentric, which they were, but they were also Gay -- in a quite way. Superb acting by JoAnne Winter and Sheila Balter! Also wonderful were ‘The Men’ – Brendan Godfrey and Ryan Tasker. Compelling musical interludes are by Eric Deloria on the Piano. The Blow me away directing by Delia MacDougall is brilliant.
TWO ON A PARTY – by Tennessee Williams
Following the First play is the Extraordinary Tennessee Williams “TWO ON A PARTY”. Now, in lesser hands this play might not be as fabulous as it is. And we can thank John Fisher for the imaginative and rousing presentation that is on stage. The story gets you so involved, that you don’t want it to end.
In the William’s short story (it is very autobiographical) we go along on a road trip with a very peculiar couple. It’s sex on the road for Two. And not unlike “Suddenly Last Summer” (another William’s play) the woman, of course, is the bait for Billy, who is always looking for a quick roll in the hay with another man. The 1950’s were fraught with danger and forbidden treasures. Cora hooks up with Billy (guess who Billy is?) for the trip. You could find Billy’s and Cora’s all over New York Bar Stools in the 50’s.
Both Billy and Cora have a lust for men that literally control their every thought. This is so hot – that I’m surprised that the pages of the play didn’t ignite. I think it is one of Williams’ best plays. I wonder why it has not been done more often. It is meant to be a short one-act – but it is a bit longer than that. With an intermission you would have a full-fledged Tennessee play. Believe me, you won’t want it to end. The actors are: Sheila Balter -- Bar Pianist, Ensemble. Brendan Godfrey- Bartender, Motorcyclist, Ensemble. Ryan Tasker – Billy. Joanne Winter – Cora. --“Remarkable Acting by everyone!” Totally sizzling! Here’s a line to remember: “Age does more damage to a Queen than it does to a woman!” – Cora. She also said: “As you get to know people – if you like them, they begin to look younger to you.”
Love it --- and you should see it –it’s electrifying!
SUDDENLY HOME by Armistead Maupin
The Armistead Maupin play is last. It has some fun moments in it – but after seeing the first two plays, it lacked luster. Maupin is a good writer and columnist – but for some reason his words did not work in his play. It takes place in San Francisco and has all the usual clichés that might go over for a bunch of tourists, but not for us that live here and have heard them all before. It reminded me of a play that I was in once called “Cable Car Comedy”. It was a horrible disaster that was designed for Tourists. Even they didn’t like it. The (recorded) music is great in the Maupin play “Suddenly Home.” It fits the time zone of Herb Caen and the usage of “Baghdad by the Bay” – 1980’s. This tale of same sex relationships has a woman doubting her relationship. And it leaves me in doubt.
The good news is that the same great actors are in this play, as they are in the other two. They are the ones that could turn Stone into Gold. They have it all. On a dime they become, perplexed, appalled, and enthralling. Impressive acting indeed!
RATING: FOUR GLASSES OF CHAMPAGNE!!!! (for the first two plays) RATING: TWO GLASSES OF CHAMPAGNE!! (for the last play)
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TAGS: PLAYS, THEATRE, TENNESSEE WILLIAMS, GERTRUDE STEIN, ARMISTEAD MAUPIN, THEATRE RHINOCEROS, WORD FOR WORD