The three one-act plays explore identity and self-awareness. ``What's in a Name'' takes place largely in the mind of a former radical bankrobber, living in suppressed fear as a successful executive. ``The Bull Ring'' takes place in the mind of a world-champion heavyweight while he goes for one last fight in Madison Square Garden. And ``Pop's Closet'' returns to the mental space shared by a father and son, which the son has outgrown but where the father lingers, like an old suit in a closet.
Perhaps the most complex is ``The Bull Ring,'' as the fighter (Tobey ``Bull'' Brahman, played by Sheik Mahmud-Bey) recollects his past victories and defeats, and the play drags the magnifying glass of time backwards and forwards. This is a fashionable technique more honored in the breach than the observance, but Nolan has the chops for it and handles it well.
Marlon Hargrave did a nice turn as the Bull's Ali-like opponent. It was obvious that both Hargrave and Mahmud-Bey have a boxing background. (Also featuring Michael Chimenti and Lou Sones; directed by Vincent Marano.)
``What's in a Name,'' directed by Susan Jeffries, finds a retail executive (Pandora Richardson) falling asleep on the train and missing her stop. Kindly transit cop Jeanine Caro (Angela Trento) tries to help her, but she keeps flashing back to her past, when she robbed banks (under a different name). Each time she is about to reveal her true name, her bank-robbing lover (Clarence, played as a real bad guy by Mark Jackson) returns and threatens her at gunpoint. When she finally does give her name, he shoots her in the head; Officer Caro is left calling for backup, Richardson's comatose body lying on the floor. (Also featuring a nice cameo turn by Sally Winters, as the bank-robber's grade-school teacher Sister Bernadette and as another character; her characterizations were so well-defined that it was a surprise when one actress too few showed up at the curtain call.)
``Pop's Closet'' is problematic, relying as it does on a big buildup of Billy Devlin's return from the Navy to visit his family and talk to his Pop. When they finally sit down, Pop has nothing to say but an endless stream of banalities about sports and politics. Either Pop's closet is empty, or another door needs to be opened to show the audience what's inside. (Directed by Andrew Frank; featuring Charles Chessler, Catherine Zambri, Jeff Kronson, and Mary Ann Volvonas.)
The evening featured a very effective set, by Debora R. Rosen, and lights, by David Alan Comstock. Sound design, Becca Blackwell.
Copyright 1996 John Chatterton
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