The Scaffold Project, Curious Theatre Branch, at the Lunar Cabaret. The three writers in this year's program of new works all show promise, especially in their skill with language, and the stagings tend to improve the material. But only writer-performer Leo Asuncion has really got it going on.
Degenerate, handily directed by Bryn Magnus, is an intensely physical, stylishly oblique monologue that's both riveting and ridiculous from beginning to startlingly moving coda. Its absence of narrative or real characters makes description difficult, but Asuncion's principal concern seems the mutability of identity and the writhing substance of what lies beneath it--expressed here as the eruptions of a lisping, leering id. As Asuncion literally wrestles himself up and down the stage armed only with a book and folding chair, his movements achieve a supremely focused, nearly verbal quality and his words a boiled-down, almost tangible weight.
On the same bill is Sabrina Chapadjiev's The Insatiable Lite Duet, a trying star-crossed-lesbian dorm romance: its 60-plus minutes build to a vague hug, after which things fail to work out. The incessant replay of events in dramatic "re-creations" or alternating she said/she said accounts doesn't really enhance the anemic story line, and though they make a cute couple, actors Catherine Dughi and Jillian Erikson are rarely as captivating as the static situations require. Separately, in the nakedly poetic soliloquies that represent Chapadjiev's best work, they have lovely moments--but not enough to overcome the script's awkward, abrupt ones.
A press release calls Brian Torrey Scott's Histrionica With Banjo (playing on a separate bill) "the symbolic inaction of progress within a logical hierarchy." Ahem. To his credit Scott has the surest touch of these writers and supplies some wonderfully nonchalant dialogue. But for all the play's gamelike complications--scenes that repeat with different casts, intersecting stage realities--Histrionica doesn't have much to say. True, the script is pointedly pointless, but there's a difference between absurd and tiresome, and this is mostly the latter.
The direction (by Scott and Sam Wagster) is reasonably tight, however, and the cast is solid. Especially good are Ryan Bollettino, Molly Neylan, Marc Luker, Abby Cates, and Kevin Moore. Once joined to some content, Scott's self-conscious form should merit such actorly attention.