And Toto Too Productions
at the Beat Kitchen
When Edward flees to a deserted park after a quarrel with his wife, the last person he expects to see is a sassy southern belle in red leather chaps and four-inch spike heels. Rebel is a rock star who's cut loose from her band to seek a fast fling with one of the locals, and even in a town supposedly as square as Bangor, Maine, you'd think a volunteer could be found. But Edward is a humble mechanic and a nice guy, and when Rebel hears that he and his wife are at odds over their lack of money, she turns out to be a sympathetic listener and a pretty nice person herself. And when the remorseful wife, comes looking for her misunderstood husband, damned if she doesn't turn out to be a warm and caring woman who wants only the best for Edward. And double damned if Rebel doesn't straighten them both out on the question of money and happiness, drawing upon her extensive experience and her checkbook.
Leroy Clark's Rebel is not without its cliches--Rebel's childhood is lifted virtually episode for episode from the film The Rose, and Edward and Lorraine's marriage from country and western lyrics. But the cast, directed by Susan Lyles, displays sufficient charm and skill (Lily Fortin's feisty Rebel should get her cast as hoot 'n' holler wild women for some time to come) to soften the occasional rasp of the creaking plot and sweeten this academic exercise with amusement and affection.
Rebel, however formulaic and predictable, is downright refreshing when compared with the second piece on this And Toto Too bill, Eric Coble's more ambitious but irritatingly derivative and ultimately incoherent Ordering Lunch. Punkish Sarah has invited suit-and-tie William to her squalid kitchen for egg salad sandwiches with chocolate chips. Shy and ingratiating as a child, she twitters like a small, nervous sparrow while he seems to stalk her with the lazy curiosity of a street-weary tomcat. But just when we think this is a variation on The Woolgatherer, the mercurial Zeppo charges in, and we learn that both men are Sarah's former boyfriends and that she is determined to choose between the orderly life William offers her and the chaotic one represented by Zeppo. Suddenly a crippling secret involving a mysterious absent third man, Kevin, is introduced. But just when you think this is a variation on Birdbath, the scenario switches to Equus, as William forces the hysterical Sarah to face the truth her decision attempts to deny.
Order versus chaos? Boring, safe establishment repression versus thrilling, risky boho freedom? A universe that ends with both a bang and a whimper? Coble's intentions are further muddied by director Lyles's decision to cast herself as Sarah. Lyles is a serviceable actress, but her gamine appearance and little-girl voice make Andrew Schlessinger as William and Dan Nelson as Zeppo more suggestive of mentorly uncles than lovestruck swains. Steve Hadley's percussion overture contributes nothing and runs far too long.
But 50 percent isn't bad for a first production, and there's enough raw talent in the And Toto Too company to warrant a look at what they might do with more professional material.