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Above & Beyond

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ABOVE & BEYOND

Milestone Theatre Company

at Cafe Voltaire

"Above & Beyond," a program of four one-act plays presented by Milestone Theatre Company, feels an awful lot like a collection of daydreams. Daydreams are great--for the person dreaming them. As long as they stay in our imagination they're better than any play, movie, or book. But try to tell them to someone. Worse yet, put them onstage. They suddenly become silly and unrealistic. That's the problem with the plays in "Above & Beyond." They feel like lazy daydreams, with unrealistic situations, unbelievable dialogue, and unconvincing characters.

A Lonely Impulse of Delight is the most entertaining of the four, probably because it's the shortest. The scene is Central Park shortly after 2 AM. Walter (Daniel Mailley) has dragged Jim (Monroe Makowsky) out of a party to sit and look with great expectation at a pond. The reason, announces Walter, is that he's in love and wants to share the discovery with his best friend. Jim's royally ticked off because he'd rather be back at the party.

The object of Walter's love is a mermaid named Sally who lives in the pond. Walter doesn't know if she's real or not, but he does know he's painfully in love. All in about five minutes, and with the ease of a daydream, this admission virtually destroys his friendship with Jim. Jim can't believe Walter's wasted his time searching for a mermaid in Central Park and goes back to the party. Then, moments before the audience starts to wonder if its time is also being wasted, a completely predictable surprise ending brings the play to a sappy close.

Paula Cizmar's Candy and Shelley Go to the Desert seems to be a Thelma and Louise-inspired daydream. In Cizmar's play, Candy and Shelley (Meg Arader and Jennifer A. Evans) are best friends. We know that because, as in the previous play, one character says to the other, "We're best friends." On the way to California their car overheats and they're stranded in the middle of the desert. With totally unconvincing dialogue, the two bicker, walk around barefoot in 113-degree heat, and tell each other what good friends they are. Candy fantasizes about hot sex with bikers in the desert and Shelley freaks over the molted lizard skins lying about.

The desert makes them crazy and then the truth comes out about Roger. Roger, Candy's ex-lover . . . Shelley slept with him. Yes, it's painful. As one of them says later, after a handsome biker shows up and they fight and start to make up, "Sometimes it's hard to be a woman." Indeed it is, but it's even more difficult to write a convincing play about it.

At times Cizmar's play, directed by Makowsky and Mailley, flails about, other times it wanders aimlessly. There's an interesting moment near the end, but the directors don't make anything of it. Even if they had, it wouldn't have redeemed the play, which fails to be believable or even interesting from the first moment.

Like Candy and Shelley, the characters in Don Nigro's Specter are stranded with their car, an easy plot device. This time they're in a ditch in New Jersey. It's raining, so they can't go anywhere. And also as in the other plays, they argue as if they've known each other since birth. But this time they're strangers. (We know this because one of the characters says, "We're strangers.")

Makowsky delivers the most convincing performance of the evening as a sniveling Princeton professor named Norris. Unfortunately, Evans is less compelling as Marla, the woman who caused him to drive into the ditch. Specter has the most potential for success, raising some interesting questions about trust, human instinct, and sexuality, but they get buried under a mound of bad dialogue and weak acting.

Bad dialogue also plagues Wendy Hammond's Minna and the Space People, a play about the crazy Minna (Arader), her brother Brett (Mailley), and the Space People who have impregnated Minna through magic. Like the others, Minna feels like a self-indulgent fantasy. "Above & Beyond" is one sad case of four playwrights' dreams becoming an audience's nightmare.

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