nytheatre.com review by Josephine Cashman
April 13, 2007
Living Image Arts' latest offering is an engaging and charming evening entitled Committed, consisting of three one-act plays. Each play has its strengths as it explores the messy and imperfect relationships of many kinds.
Kicking off the evening is Men are Pigs, a lively, appealing piece written by Tony Zertuche and directed by Marlo Hunter. Three men discuss and dissect how they evolved from "human, to canine, to swine." In fact, as the audience discovers, it is the girlfriends who unwittingly "helped" these men by hurting and/or ignoring them. Peter Marsh, Tyler Hollinger, and TJ Mannix play the three men and they are quite funny as we see them grow up from shy, awkward boys to awkward adolescents to college buddies. The '80s soundtrack provides a delightful underscoring as they grow. Hollinger and Mannix stand out as their heartless girlfriends (each girlfriend is played by Elizabeth Schmidt), string them along and break their hearts.
Next is Off the Cuff, written by William K. Powers, a farcical but confusing play about a family and their relationships with each other, the bottle, and the cute guy who's in their parlor. Aptly named Guy, he's a criminal laying low while plotting his next heist. Maria Gabriele has excellent timing as the mother Bebe. Her breakfast table bickering with her husband Arthur, marvelously played by Richard Kent Green, is both ridiculous and hilarious. Rounding out the family are Dookie and Babs, their son and daughter. Babs (Mia Aden) is now engaged to Guy (Tyler Hollinger), and their romance is as comical as it is mismatched. There are memorable lines, and director Holli Harms does a fine job keeping the audience entertained as we try to keep up with this dysfunctional, perplexing family and their soon-to-be son-in-law. I believe Powers is striving for Caryl Churchill's or Christopher Durang's sense of absurdity, but the result falls short: Off the Cuff has too much fluff, and the audience is left thoroughly amused, but also baffled at what the playwright is trying to say.
The final play of the evening, Boxes, is far and away the strongest play of the night. Superbly directed by Lindsay Goss, it's about two siblings who try to deal with life after their father's violent death. Escaping the wake itself, Aaron (Matthew Sincell) makes his way down to the beach where his father died, and his sister Cassandra (Julie Fitzpatrick) follows. Robert Askins writes their rocky relationship pitch perfectly, as they mourn for their father. "A nameless father in a nothing village," Aaron both rages and laments. Cassandra believes differently: "Cry until you stop. And then follow him into the world—it's more dangerous than boxes." They have their sibling rivalry and their Mexican stand-offs, but their love for each other is evident and Goss's staging and direction are spot-on, with evocative sound and lighting. The Irish accents aren't consistent, but otherwise the actors are excellent and keenly bring to life the fear and loneliness that accompanies a great and terrible loss.
Kathleen Dobbins, Scott Needham, and Geoffrey Roecker, respectively, provide the lights, set, and sound for all three shows, and they do an exceptional job. Their work in Men are Pigs and Boxes is especially outstanding.
Living Image Arts has pulled together a sprightly and moving evening of shows and I look forward to seeing what they do next.