In any work by Dorothy Parker it's a good bet the liquor will be flowing freely; and sure enough, in most of the vignettes that constituted Anything Goes, bottles, flasks and glasses were being filled and emptied repeatedly. What was missing was a purposefulness to the drinking. The actors handled the drinks as if they were mere props to keep their hands busy rather than an indispensable accessory for their catty, frustrated characters. In the sketch titled ``The Lonely Leave,'' for example, the indifferent husband home on military leave who reaches for the scotch instead of the champagne his romance-minded wife has poured really needs that drink--to stall the confrontation with his wife and to drown his discontent. But after he poured the drink, he carried it across the room and slowly drank it.
The drinking may have been just one detail in the play, but had it been more resolute--had it been treated as more integral to plot and character development--the show would have had more of the caustic edge that defined Parker's writing. Anything Goes was a loyal and ambitious tribute to the legendary wit, but it would have captured her personality better with more focused directing.
The nonchalant directing probably resulted from the circumstances under which Anything Goes was produced. The show originated in an acting class at HB Studio, and two of the students, Darlene Troiano and Dawn E. Sofia, then formed the Monkfish Theatre Company to stage it Off-Off-Broadway. Their teacher, Michael Beckett, had directed the workshop, but Troiano and Sofia were credited as co-directors for this show. Along with Tom Violano, the two women coordinated most of the production elements, although the program didn't specify who designed the sets, costumes, lighting or sound. No one was credited, either, with adapting Parker's short stories for the stage.
Nine of Parker's stories were featured in Anything Goes, either as monologues or two-person skits. Prior to each vignette, cast member Letty Fores quoted one of Parker's patented bon mots. They generally were funnier than the scenes themselves. The tenor of the program also was thrown off by the lopsided running times of 90 minutes for the first act and 30 minutes for the second.
There was a cohesiveness to the program, however, since gossip or a power play between the sexes emerged as the theme in all of them. The humor of these decades-old stories was remarkably contemporary--the stories ``Here We Are'' and ``The Sexes'' sounded straight out of the currently vogue men-are-from-Mars-women-are-from-Venus school of pop psychology, while the heroine's ``problem'' in the monologue titled ``A Telephone Call'' lingers today. The performances would have been more convincing, actually, if the scenes were set in the '90s, because the actresses' hairdos were inappropriate for the 1940s. Troiano delivered the finest performance of the evening in the monologue ``Just a Little One.'' She made her character's drinking matter and did an excellent job of portraying a deepening inebriation. (Also featuring Chuck McMahon, Julie Wright, Tess Quadro, Larry Winslow, Joannie Kaplan, Laurie Bean, Jay Gibson, John Bach, and Dianne Snyder).
Copyright 1996 Adrienne Onofri
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