Sequestered: Seven Secrets by Le Wilhelm, artistic director and chief literary mainspring of Love Creek Productions, comprises seven monologues by women who have a couple of things in common: they don't have much use for marriage; and they each have a secret, which they share with the audience. Unlike the garden-variety show of the genre (Talking With being perhaps the most obvious example), the women remain onstage after their scenes, finally toasting each other with wineglasses cleverly concealed during their scenes.
The seven women also have in common a heavy pop-psychological connection between their unfulfilled marital state and their secrets: Kate (Jen Davis) can't express even small disagreements with her "perfect" husband - she acts them out instead by picking up mechanics ("I do grease monkeys"); Jill (Tonia Anderson), the perfectly married charity worker, still a virgin, who sublimates her maternal instincts through caring for AIDS babies; Rachel (Natasha Charles), the high-powered stockbroker, who prefers competing in the workplace to having a relationship, whose deep secret is that she killed a man in a drive-by shooting; and so on. The genre is getting tired, but these actresses did a solid job of presenting their various simplified characters. (Directed by Diana LeBlanc; also featuring LeBlanc, Carolina Capehart, Jacqueline Margolis, and Kristine Eckert.)
Robin Brenner's Off the Wall resurrects a Victorian entertainment, the tableau vivant -with words. Brenner impersonated a Cubist portrait of a woman, in primary colors; a Picasso portrait of a man, in a black robe; and Rodin's The Kiss (assisted by an uncredited male). In each she gave a monolog, addressed directly to audience/lover/painter/?. The monologs, delivered expressionlessly, verged on bohemian free verse ("I am so lonely ... I filled my veins with alcohol and coffee just to keep my heart beating"). Only one - in Rodin's clinch - expressed a coherent point of view, that of a person trapped in addiction to love.
Costumes and makeup were outstanding, but would have been more effective if changed into in the wings. But then there would have been a big gap between scenes. Some problems have no solution - at least on a stage.
Josh Ben Friedman's The Way One Writes His Name (directed by Kymm Zuckert) was a refreshing escape from High Concept. Joe (Daniel Brennan) and Kathy (Debra Conn) "won" a blind date on a quiz show. She is a "handwriting therapist"; he is a director of another quiz show (Wheel of Death) in which wrong guesses send you to a two-minute bout with a gladiator. Despite his pathological fear of initimacy and her almost pathological flakiness, and despite a home invasion by her ex (sadly, even sympathetically played by Michael Walsh) it appears that they might even be able to get along.
Despite its roots in TV, this was a play about real characters in conflict, sympathetically portrayed. It could use some pruning but shows fine dramatic instincts. (A note on professionalism, or its general lack, Off-Off-Broadway: the play was twice interrupted by cackling from backstage.)
Copyright 1998 John Chatterton