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From The (Warped) Mind of Christopher Durang

From The (Warped) Mind of Christopher Durang – posted by Carl Gauze on March 20, 2014 22:25

From The (Warped) Mind of Christopher Durang

From The (Warped) Mind of Christopher Durang
Selected Monologs and Short Plays
Directed by Wade Hare
Breakthrough Theatre, Winter Park FL

Short play festivals – a chance to explore marginal ideas that might not withstand a full 10 minutes of acting. Here are 14 little vignettes of life as Christopher Durang sees the world. We open with the surreal “Naomi in the Living Room.” Here middle aged Naomi (Lorraine Bouchard) has allocated every space in the house its special function: you live it he living room, bathe in the bathroom, and keep kitsch in the kitchen. Her son (Beejay Clinton) and his finance (Tara Rewis) drop by, and after a good bit of verbal torture, we learn that Ms. Rewis has TWO black and white polka dot dresses. Naomi (Lorraine Bouchard) declares she has a big personality and there’s no question, she chases her son (Beejay Clinton) and his new wife (Tara Rewis) from chair to couch to ground. It’s weird, but be glad you aren’t related.

Further on we find a fine performance by Paul H Braccioforte as “The Gym Teacher.” He’s not your slim, dedicated athlete or a the wussy ambiguous guy you talked about, he’s a bit overweight and more than a bit over tattooed and believes deodorant is for sissies. But his approach to gym class is refreshingly old school: his dodge ball is mixed sex shirts and skins, and without budget for medicine balls, he’s reverted to that old favorite: a bowling ball. If you can dodge the wrench…

In “Funeral Parlor” Arleen Radner has lost her hubby and as she meets the mourners a distant friend (Marty Radner) appears and suggest she try “keening”. It’s an old Irish tradition; you make a high pitched mournful sound and let the daemons out. Arleen is reluctant, but ultimate discover she has a talent for terrifying mourners and audience members equally. I’m not too keen on keening; just sing an old hymn when I go.

I think I’ve seen “The Hardy Boys and the Mystery of Where Babies Come From” at Fringe a long time ago. Two prepubescent boys try to uncover the titular mystery, and when investigation and speculation fail they run up against over sexed nurse Candice Hicks. She introduces them to the finer points of bondage and medical fantasies, and while the boys are still confused they both all agree: Medical Fantasies ARE the best.

Act Two takes us on a much more political and religious rant, in “Cardinal O’Connor” Kevin Hudson carefully explains the finer points of Catholic doctrine. You might be confused about how putting a plastic balloon on your privates offends God to the point of damning you to hell but it’s still OK to kill people, so long as you personally don’t agree with them. The Cardinal makes a strong argument, and drives it home with volume.

In the cute “1-900-Desperate” we return to those pre-internet days when had to get out remote sex via dial up. Tara hopes to meet the man of her dream for $40 in phone bills, but it’s not scuzzy BeeJay. And for some reason Arleen is on the chat hectoring the world about something or other. Tara is depressed, but maybe five year old Coletyn might just be worth waiting for. It’s’ a unique commentary on a now almost forgotten method of mating and dating, and one we should all be glad is gone.

The most disturbing pieces come near the end. In “Entertaining Mr. Helms” Mr. Braccioforte presides over an ultra-conservative family that holds Jesse Helms-like values more highly than Mr. Helms does himself. It’s a pointed political commentary, although it’s unlikely to be seen or influence those it’s aimed at. But “the Book of Leviticus Show” goes one step farther, here hillbillies Jim Cundiff and Tara experiment with on-line video. They want to help God save the world from sin and round up a few random sex offenders to offer as a sweet smelling sacrifice. God, as always, remains distant and silent. Sadly, this sort of thing still happens and while the point it taken, it’s more shocking than entertaining.

Despite the downer ending, these were odd and entertaining shorts that push boundaries in taste and modern culture. Durang doesn’t get done often enough these days, and it’s good to see a quirky show like this draw a solid audience.

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