Each ride on the IRT brings with it an increasing knowledge that this company has tapped into a vein that will feed it for many years to come. The vein is one of high-quality ensemble acting, and its contents, like fine wine, get better with each tasting.
``The Morning Sun'' outshone its companion pieces, largely because it was simpler and more direct without foregoing hints of complex subtleties. In it a man (Gardner Marks, played by Jim Scholfield), vacationing on Fire Island, meets the retarded youth (Eric Skripko, played by Mark Daly) who puts out the deck chairs. It turns out the older man, an actor, is dying of AIDS. He is bitter at having his career snuffed out because producers are afraid of his condition. Finally, Gardner and Eric become friends (perhaps more) when Gardner realizes that Eric, even though retarded, is no more a freak than he is.
What makes the theme tolerable in this guise is the conflict between the two: Gardner doesn't much care for Eric's constant yapping, and Eric sees Gardner as somewhat of an intrusion into his morning ritual. It takes a little sand to make a pearl.
But the duet between these two was admirably danced by the actors and subtly choreographed by director Kent Cozad, who carefully parceled out space to them as the evolution of the dance required it. And Brofsky's dialog was simple and understated, so as not to hit the audience between the eyes with any metaphorical hammers.
By comparison, Richard Willett (his S.O.S. was reviewed in these pages) tends toward the wordy, a fault less evident in ``Certain Doubts.'' The play concerns two friends, one a closet case and the other a supposedly heterosexual athlete. The crisis of the play is the former's telling the latter his Secret. Viewers who don't like lathery (as in soapy) dialog with lots of polysyllabic words about relationships could take cheer in the apparent verisimilitude of the wrestling scenes and the very real sense of Something At Stake.
``Lucas And Zoe,'' by Matt Tomasino, is the most dramatically ambitious (and flawed) of the three plays. It tells of the relationship between a poet (Lucas, played by Kevin Shine) and a painter (Zoe). Strangely, Zoe has two personas: a teenage tomboy and a grown woman, each played by a separate actress, one on either side of the stage (Courtney Rohler and Dori Kelly, respectively). Alas, Zoe falls victim to a strange fungus that eventually invades all her organs and kills her, but she teaches Lucas to paint.
The story was told with samples of Zoe's (and Lucas's) paintings, some of which showed talent. While many vignettes of their lives held interest, half-started tears died undropped as Zoe's condition worsened.
Production values for the evening were on the whole successful. The sandy set (David Martin) worked well for all the plays. The lighting (Frank DenDanto III) was sometimes lumpy. The costumes (Ann Lommel), while not prominent, did the job.
The IRT rightly put their best efforts into directing and acting (and have the courage to present new plays), while still expending enough effort on production values (and Theatre Row rents!) to be credible as a serious, long-term producing organization Off-Off-Broadway. Only those who stay the course can expect to end up in the winner's circle, however drawn.
Copyright 1996 John Chatterton
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