The Bare Bones Zone
For their evening of one-acts, the Bare Bones Theatre group has the good sense to include Christopher Durang's "For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls." This spoof of The Glass Menagerie features Gwen Lindsey, who couldn't be much better as Amanda Wingvalley, the matriarch whose considerable powers of self-delusion still aren't enough to allow her to escape her crappy life. (Son Tom [Matt Chavez] cruises for sailors and son Lawrence [Patrick Moulton] is an agoraphobic, swizzle-stick-collecting hypochondriac.) Lindsey's dead-on accent and timing make her recurring bouts of despair extremely funny. Moulton, too, is hilarious as he fawns over his pathetic swizzle sticks. ("And this one is called Blue because it's blue.") Directed by Lindsey, the piece falters only when the "feminine caller" Ginny (Rosa Sifuentes) appears. Sifuentes doesn't have the right voice (which needs to be loud and crystal clear, especially given the Next Stage's lousy acoustics) and her pacing's off, so jokes get lost.
The opener, local playwright Jared Cozen's "Real Dreams for the Neurotic Mind," plays on the reality vs. illusion chestnut, but not especially inventively. The closer is the good but not great monologue "A Little Talent" by Rob Walsh, about the curse of being somewhat gifted artistically. BBT founder Paul Mendoza performs the speech with incredible naturalism -- he's completely present in the skin of the disillusioned artist saying goodbye to art. Mendoza, Lindsey, and Moulton's more than a little talent carries the evening.
The Gin Game
D.L. Coburn's shockingly misogynist psychodrama won the 1978 Pulitzer (even back then, the drama prize was a joke) and has been a recent success for local actors Elizabeth Benedict and Robert Parnell, who've remounted their production for a short run. Both performers are very good, much better than the play deserves, but they can't overcome the script's failures. It's surprising when Weller (Parnell) calls Fonsia (Benedict) a bitch because she keeps winning at the game of gin rummy they play out on the porch of their nursing home. Since Fonsia's been blankly sweet about winning, Weller seems cruel and unbalanced. Even more astonishingly, Weller turns out to be right -- Fonsia is revealed to be a vindictive, manipulative woman, but this time it's the playwright who's disturbed. Coburn honestly believes Weller is justified in his violent and erratic outbursts against Fonsia. Little tidbits about divorce laws being unfair to men and mothers ruining their sons also crop up. Coburn appears to be working something out about either his mother or wife or both, but his hatred of women is a subject better suited for therapy than drama. Yikes.