Carrots & Plums
nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
February 7, 2006
When I go to see a pairing of one-acts I try to figure out why the producers paired these particular plays together—what themes the plays share. I have to admit that I couldn’t really put my finger on exactly why these two plays are paired, but that did not in any way detract from a good experience at the performance.
Both plays are wonderfully directed. Adam Knight directs the first selection, At Home, penned by Michael Weller. Knight immediately creates an atmosphere of light tension—not the edge-of-your-seat kind of tension, but the kind where you can sense right away that something is not quite right. A couple, Paul and Carol, are preparing for another couple to come over for dinner. Minutes before the play begins they have just had a great big fight. They said things in anger that they now perhaps regret—things like “I hate the things you say” and “Maybe we should split up.” The question is, once these things have been put out there, what do you do with them? Are things said in anger the truth? And if Paul and Carol are telling the truth, then what are they hanging onto in this marriage?
It would seem playwright Weller is trying to explore the co-dependent aspect of most marriages. Once a couple has been together for a certain amount of time, their lives become interwoven and pulling the individual strings out of this tight weave is as difficult and as painful as pulling your own tooth out. Most people would sooner avoid the subject, as in At Home they try to strike the mean things they say from the record, rather than face the truth that they may be holding onto a doomed relationship.
Actors Lawrence Dial and Emily Bohannon play Paul and Carol, respectively, with a good deal of sincerity. Dial is explosive in one of his final speeches where he shows his contempt for Carol, only to turn on a dime when he tries to seduce her in the same scene. Bohannon is endearing in her role but in the end I was waiting for her to break out of her shell.
The second play of the night is It’s Called The Sugar Plum by Israel Horovitz. Director Wes Grantom does an excellent job placing the building blocks of the odd relationship depicted in this play one atop another. The relationship goes a little something like this: The night before the play begins a young college student, Wallace, has accidentally run over the fiancé of a young co-ed named Joanna. Joanna comes to Wallace’s apartment to confront him but she finds Wallace to be too disarming and charming to be mad at. As they struggle to learn new things about each other they find a false love that may well be an easy solution for the current confusion in their lives.
Playwright Horowitz masterfully spins a story that borders on the absurd. His characters are over-the-top at some moments while very persuasive at others. He presents them as so deep at first, only to show that they are truly shallow once their layers of insecurity are peeled away. As the play progresses, Wallace becomes more and more childlike while Joanna slowly exposes her desire for notoriety.
Hannah Wolfe enters as Joanna at a breakneck pace. At first I thought she’d have nowhere to go, but she manages to pull new layers off her character as the play moves to its conclusion. Joachim Boyle commits to Wallace with the most likable sincerity of the evening. A third actor, Timothy Dietrich, enters only at the opening and closing as a one-man radio that is constantly being tuned to another station. His versatility is very impressive and one of the most entertaining moments of the night.
The themes of these two plays may have little to do with one another, but this evening of theatre is as enjoyable as a night of intense conversation with a good friend. We never set out to have this sort of conversation but when it happens we welcome it and when it’s done we’ve discovered a little about ourselves and our cohort.