An Evening of Theatre
An Evening of Theatre
By Christopher Durang
Directed by Lani Harris
UCF Conservatory Theatre, Orlando, FL
Sometimes you need to stare at your navel, and this parody of the pillars of modern drama gives us a good look at our lint. Durang assembles three One Act plays that are loosely linked by the theme of “Don’t be so pretentious – its only art!” As the lights go down, ethereal Mrs. Sorken (Nicole Niefeld) rises and gives us a curtain speech combined with an etymology lesson on the words “drama” and “theater”, and demonstrates how an evening of bad theater might be spiffed up with Dramamine. While the rest of the evening wasn’t that bad, the idea hung over the show like poorly ventilated smoke effects.
“For Whom The Southern Belle Tolls” takes that Tennessee Williams classic of family collapse and slaps it around for a while. Durang expressed frustration with Laura’ inability to get a grip on herself in the original text. That’s a stiff judgment to pass on a fictional character, but by recasting her as Lawrence (Kraig Kelsey), her internal demons become much funnier. Lawrence collects swizzle sticks while his mom Amanda (Sheli Nathan Smith) tries to marry him off to a woman who can support his neuroses. Barely closeted Tom (Brendan Rogers) brings home deaf Ginny (Angela Damato), but she’s got other obligations. Kelsey worked well as the agoraphobic Lawrence, and Roger’s Tom was nicely underplayed, but there were times I could have slapped Ginny. Still, the fundamental flaw here is the piece goes on too long. When Tom walks off into the dark, the show feels over, but Durang brings everyone back for another 10 minutes of breast beating, dulling his comic edge badly.
The second act takes us into “The Actor’s Nightmare.” Mild mannered accountant George Spelvin (Kurt Muilenburg) steps on stage to the bad news the male lead was in a wreck, and stage manager Meg (Khristy Chamberlain) tells him to suit up, he’s going on in 15 minutes. Too bad he doesn’t know what the show is, but like a trouper he reappears in a spiffy black and red doublet and stumbles through Hamlet, Private Lives, A Man For All Seasons, and some Beckett thing that involves trash cans. (I can never keep my Beckett straight.) Again, this number goes on at length as George recalls what stock Shakespeare he can, begs lines off the stage manager, endures physical abuse from his female leads, and eventually loses his head to Orlando’s favorite executioner, Sam Waters. “Nightmare” engages, but is more of a skit than a story. The actors do have fun with it, oily Henry Irving (Michael Cox) stole what show there was. These are all cute, self referential pieces that are funny if you spend most of your time dressed in black and passing out head shots, but need some editing.