An Evening of One-Acts | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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An Evening of One-Acts


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Reflective Edge Theatre Company

at Immediate Theatre Studio

"An Evening of One-Acts" is a 60-minute collection of what are really two slight sketches and one scene that's a little more fully drawn. All three deal with a pivotal change in a character's life or work. But at best the show is a promissory note, barely audition enough to prove the worth of this new Reflective Edge Theatre Company. The scripts are more actors' exercises than ensemble entertainment. Only the third, which contains some conflict, offers more than a mood.

The hour begins with "Fifteen Minutes," the opening slice of life in Jane Martin's popular Talking With. . . Delivered by an actress making up before a performance, the monologue seethes with actorly anger at the indignity of a nightly "lacerating self-exposure" before an audience of strangers: sitting safely in the dark, they offer nothing to equal her risk-taking. If they could share their bios and confessions of similar crises of confidence, she thinks, the exchange might not be so one-sided.

"Fifteen Minutes" fairly reeks of precious self-indulgence; most people do their work well enough without applause or standing ovations. And they don't bellyache that their customers aren't empathizing with them every inch of the way. (If that did happen in the theater, it would scare the hell out of most actors. They want the emotional outpouring kept safely on their side of the footlights.)

As directed by Philip Gushee, Drue Allison Bralove plays the Actress with an irritating lack of dramatic illusion--she mumbles, failing to project her lines, her mutterings too internalized to reach beyond the dressing room mirror. But Bralove can cry on cue, an invaluable asset she'll someday put to better use.

Next up is a male fantasy called A Lonely Impulse of Delight, written by John Patrick Shanley, the screenwriter of Moonstruck (although this sketch more closely resembles Splash). Two old friends leave a party at two in the morning so Walter (Rick Prell) can show Jim (Bernard Hocke) a special girl he's met. His Sally, whom he's usually met late at night, is a freshwater mermaid living in the lake in New York's Central Park.

Unfortunately, Sally doesn't show up--a fact that doesn't surprise Jim in the least. Despairingly, Walter agonizes, "To love somebody you can't have is bad enough, but to find it's a dream. . . ." Of course just as Jim leaves, Sally arrives (though the audience can't see her), and Walter calls her his "solitary, improbable, only love" (maybe so, but her sense of timing clearly needs work).

Arthur David's staging nicely contrasts Hocke's dumbfounded double takes with Prell's ecstatic love hunger. And that's as much as Shanley's sketch allows or expects anyway.

Joseph Pintauro's Cacciatore is a formulaic emotional slugfest set in 1972 in the very ethnic Di Giovanni home. Two brothers, Vito (Jeff Solberg) and Charlie (Vincent Reale), clash on the night before Charlie is to marry. The pressure of the wedding unveils the usual dirty laundry: Charlie is furious at how Vito keeps escaping life and responsibility, smoking grass, retreating into his headphones, filling his brain with Jimi Hendrix's guitar; worse, Vito doesn't appreciate what Charlie does to support the family. Vito fires back that Charlie callously forgot their dead elder brother, Eddie (killed in an auto accident).

That proves the unkindest cut of all. The brothers' guilt over Eddie's death (he'd have been the best man, instead of Vito, at Charlie's wedding) is the real poison between them. Pintauro's antidote is that old standby, a fight that unblocks the brothers' failure to communicate. ("Talk to me!" Charlie pleads at the top of his lungs.) When they finally unbend, Vito suddenly, mystically discovers "Eddie's in the room. . . ."

Though Cacciatore amounts to fairly familiar confessional theater (even psychodrama), the formula does work to some extent. (The Italian-American Theatre Company's recent Vinegar and Oil succeeded in a similar way.) Richard Pinter's staging here helps. Certainly Solberg and Reale, in adequate performances, give the spat the obligatory sputtering and shouting, followed by the obligatory hugging. Which is all this play allows or expects.

It should be noted that Solberg's 70s set features a very entertaining lava lamp, which oozes up and down as if to match the brothers' pyrotechnics. Unfortunately the workings of its gooey gobs were a lot less predictable than the dramatic action in Cacciatore.

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