COOL ONE'S HEELS
Inn Town Theater Company
Standing in line is familiar enough to city people. One wouldn't think there'd be much drama in an experience so everyday, so mundane--especially since nobody seems to know what the characters in Israel Horovitz's Line, the main play in this collection of short pieces, are waiting for. Flemming, who has been camped in place all night, sings "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," but Stephen, who joins him and thus starts the line, says they're nowhere near a ball game of any kind. By the time this crowd of two has been increased by Dolan, Molly, and Arnall, all we have is a line of five people, ruthlessly jockeying for position by fair means or foul.
The commentary on interpersonal power plays in Line probably had more political relevance in 1966, when the play was written, than it does now. Stephen, the irreverent youth, is the agitator who disturbs the status quo with his demands to be first in line; he initiates the subsequent scramble for a place in this microcosm of society--a place all the more ephemeral for being completely relative. When the goal is so ambiguous as to be nonexistent, what does it matter who reaches it first? Arnall is presented as an overly cautious corporate man, Flemming as a slow-moving blue-collar type, Molly as a sex-and-power-hungry housewife, and Dolan as a patiently sly opportunist.
Yet Line is not merely a Yippie museum piece. The more things change, the more they remain the same--the indignant accusations of "You're out of line!" and the triumphant crows of "I'm first! I'm first in line!" are as relevant today as they were 23 years ago. One could probably cast this play with any combination of actors--of any age, gender, occupation, racial or ethnic group--and the dynamic would be unchanged.
Liz Sipes has directed a tight little ensemble piece here. Although the script could easily become repetitious and tedious--as any exploratory operation tends to be--the energy of the actors never flags and their interactions never become static. These duties are carried out professionally by Edmund Wyson, Ed Wheeler, CeCe Klinger, Turk Muller, and Jay Pecora, who is outstanding as the hyperactive and harlequinesque Stephen. Assisting in the absurdity are Chris Wallace, who is subversively agile on piano, and Marshall Baltazar, who choreographed the humorous and innovative fight sequences.
The Inn Town Theater Company gives us a little something extra before Line in the form of two short pieces by Harold Pinter, one by Samuel Beckett, and one by Donna Horlitz and director Liz Sipes. Of these the most memorable is Pinter's "Men for Sale" sketch, performed with just the right audacity by Ariel Brenner.