Stage Review: Pride theater festival offers two programs of new one-acts
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Have you ever written a play? I haven't, either -- well, not lately -- but everyone else seems to have. And in spite of all the complaining about how impossible it is to get new plays produced, they do.
Where: Pittsburgh Playwrights at Penn Theatre, 4809 Penn Ave., Bloomfield/Garfield.
When: Program B is 8 p.m. tomorrow and Sat., 3 p.m. Sun; Program A is 8 p.m. Fri., 4 p.m. Sat., 7 p.m. Sun.
Tickets: $10 in advance, $15 at door; 412-441-2213.
Especially one-act plays. The New Works Festival stages them; so does Pittsburgh Playwrights' "Black & White" festival (coming again in October). Now add the new Pittsburgh Pride Theater Festival, also sponsored by Pittsburgh Playwrights.
Eight one-act plays are divided into two programs of under two hours each. Six of the eight are local; two are by well-known national playwrights. All are on gay themes, but, as the program points out, the artists (playwrights, directors, actors) are both "lgbt" (lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgendered) and "str8."
Program B is by far the stronger, a sampler of crisp and clever new writing well produced. Program A has its moments, too. Together they make a spare but effective showcase for promising work.
Taken as a cluster, the eight also offer a tempting occasion to opine about the maturing of gay playwriting, except that such opining is usually fatuous. After all, gay playwriting is as old as theater, and this is just a group of eight small plays, not some cross-section of gay culture.
But the inoffensive and obvious thing to note is that the concerns of these plays are generally those of "str8" plays, too: How to maintain a relationship, how ideology intersects with personality, how to resist roles that expectation tries to impose.
Jeffrey M. Cordell, "Defense of Marriage"
The title refers to attempts to "defend" marriage against gays. Homemaker Timothy and drag queen Joshua bicker and flirt, talking tangentially about marriage and commitment. But the rituals (who proposes?) are important. Joshua wants to dress as a bride, but Timothy wants to marry a man, not a pretend woman.
A lot of ground is covered, but there is no preaching, just slick writing, a light directing touch by Ted Hoover and two fine performances by Grant Rhinehart and Varian Huddleston.
Carol Mullen, "One More Chance"
In spite of severe date anxiety, Annie lets Kitt talk her into one more blind date. While waiting hopefully, she reviews her varied partnerships, especially the funny mismatch with a dedicated revolutionary who is quick to smell meat on her breath. Bridget Carey is a wry Annie and Tressa Glover has fun playing several girlfriends. Director Adam Kukic keeps it bright and brisk.
Robert Isenberg, "California Roll"
Uptight, bossy Lana lives with girlfriend Andy. Then Lana's long-lost brother comes to visit and helps Andy break free. I cannot begin to fathom all the emotional cross-currents and mixed motives among this odd trio. It often feels forced, but Julie Moreau's eccentric Andy represents us well. Tracey Turner directs.
Paul Rudnick, "Mr. Charles, Currently of Palm Beach"
Mr. Charles is a highly rouged, effusively turned-out queen, the opinionated host of a retro gay TV advice show.
"Today's modern homosexual finds me embarrassing," he chortles floridly.
Asked "Should gays be allowed to marry?" he replies, "Only with rich older women."
He delivers a brilliant one-minute summary of 20th-century gay theater, incorporating snippets from Tennessee Williams to Tony Kushner. Aided by Brian Lord as his cheery (and briefly nude) assistant, Ted Hoover makes of Mr. Charles a grand comic tour de farce -- given further comic guidance by director Sheila McKenna. It's the hit of the festival.
Paula Martinac, "After Life"
In this ghost story, supportive pal Dennis haunts his friend Collette (a well-known writer of lesbian erotica) to get her to give up her life of one-night stands and reconnect with the women she truly loves. Allison Cahill gives a wry but centered performance as Collette. Mark Clayton Southers directs.
Sean Michael O'Donnell and Tom Protulipacf, "Audition 101"
The high school musical from hell is presented here as a surreal farce. Vivien Flowers, an algebra and part-time home-ec teacher, is a screaming queen who tyrannizes five hopefuls for "The Wizard of Oz," bending them to his will and eventually playing Dorothy himself as a pole-dancing in-your-face behemoth.
Under the indulgent direction of Linda Haston, Gunther Kusior lets himself go as Vivien, chomping delightedly on every bitchy put-down, and the oppressed but equally eccentric students frame his folly nicely. I especially liked the nuttiness of Chelsey Shannon's Alice and Tanya Kalinsky's nerdy Tracey, who gets the improbable finale.
John Reoli, "One Seat in the Shade"
This is the most serious of this program's quartet. A mature gay couple is in Spain in 1991. Randall, played by John E. Lane Jr., the queenier and more desperately aging of the two, immediately finds a boy to pick up, to the disgust of Christopher Kirsch's Scott.
Soon the play moves from a portrait of predictable tensions into a debate about attitudes of different gay generations -- roughly, pre- and post-Stonewall. Jeffrey Simpson directs and author Reoli shows some quiet wit, but the play felt under-rehearsed.
Terry Baum, "Memories of Lesbos and You"
The most poetic of the eight plays, this draws heavily and well on the legacy of the great poet Sappho. It is an amiable, fairly uneventful account of two women fulfilling a dream and experiencing the island of Lesbos -- perhaps in reality, perhaps in a dream.
Kath Donnelly's Gracie reads Sappho to Gina Preciado's Luna, and one does have a touch of grace and the other a sparkling presence. Joe Pauley directs.
First Published June 23, 2004 12:00 am