DARK PONY and REUNION, RowHouse Theatre. Outdoor theater often offers the noisy challenges of sirens, planes, junkyard dogs, and elevated trains--all nonnegotiable distractions in RowHouse Theatre's Uptown backyard, where six very nice trees shelter a suitably small stage.
Early works by David Mamet, these two terse but never cryptic one-acts focus on fathers and daughters. In the 15-minute Dark Pony Mamet freezes but never dries what seems a personal memory. Driving home, a father (Michael Ludden) entertains his little girl (Dorislee Jackson) with an Indian fable about Rain Boy and his Dark Pony--a tale both comforting and mysterious. Director Frederick Husar keeps the performance as unpretentious as a bedtime story.
In the 45-minute Reunion a father and daughter, separated by his alcoholism and her marriage, catch up on 20 years of unfinished emotional business. Now on the wagon, the father--a hot-blooded short-order cook--helps his daughter cope with her damaged marriage and his absence as a parent. Moving from idle chat to Mametian exhortation ("take the chance" and "pay the price"), these vignettes conclude with the presentation of a gold bracelet, a gift that stands for much more sharing. Ludden's staging sometimes loses the big issues amid the small talk, but Husar's earnest, salt-of-the-earth dad and Jackson's love-hungry daughter fit well together.