The Women in My Soul

By Owen Robertson and Michael David Brown
Directed by Jason Southerland
Holbee Productions
Midtown International Theatre Festival
Common Basis Theatre
750 Eighth Ave (279-4200 and
Equity showcase (closes August 25)
Review by Ken Jaworowski

Should he ever foolishly decide to give up acting, Michael David Brown would make a fantastic magician. During the five monologues that comprise The Women in My Soul, Mr. Brown conjured up characters as effortlessly as pulling rabbits out of a hat. Unfortunately, not all of what he displayed was engaging, but even when the writing and direction failed, Mr. Brown's performance usually succeeded. His passion was as pronounced as his soul was crowded, and the tricks he had up his sleeve often diverted attention from the flaws in the script.

The first scene of the one-man show, "Pasta is Meat," presents Lornabelle, a pert southerner addressing a gathering of Amway distributors. Most of the jokes and stereotypes are shopworn, though they drew an ample share of giggles nonetheless.

A "Vibrant, Vibrant Woman" is so well-written as to suggest Brown and co-author Owen Robertson should have expanded the monologue at the expense of the weaker pieces. Penelope, an English gentlewoman who wakes to discover her husband dead, goes on a casting call later that same day for a West End play. As she waits to audition she recounts her bittersweet life. Tender enough to mist a few eyes in the audience, yet funny enough to draw the loudest laughs of the evening, "A Vibrant, Vibrant Woman" was a complete success.

"The Pointed Breast" presents the story of Elena and her quest to leave Russia and achieve success in America. The tale struggles to find a focal point, but Mr. Brown was able to keep it entertaining and amicable.

Josephina, the lesbian gardener of "Shaking Hands With Geraldine Ferraro," is one the show's better-written characters. As she speaks to an old friend via a headset telephone, Josephina tells of her life after college. The piece was a fine showcase for Brown's magic. Although he spent most of the performance on his knees in a makeshift garden, his storytelling ability was enough to keep the audience watching him deliver each energetic and quirky line.

A "Capital B and a Capital W" was so disappointing that it drained the energy from both the audience and the actor. How could the same writers who offered a character as touching as Penelope serve up a story as irksome as that of Loretta and her rehearsal for an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey show? Brown, who hadn't made a misstep all evening, seemed dubious of the material. The piece seemed tacked on, as if the writers thought a final work was somehow necessary. They shouldn't have bothered. Up until this point even the lesser works were amusing; this scene, however, ended the show on a lower note than should have been allowed.

Jason Southerland's direction was unimpressive. While Brown took a few minutes to change costumes between scenes, the audience was given little to do besides uncomfortably page through their programs. And from behind the folding screen that held a selection of hats and handbags someone was often seen moving about, a distracting presence during the performance. Bill Bradford did only a fair job on sound and lighting, for the energetic music was pockmarked with dropouts; Bradford seemed to have a good time, however, for his laughs from the soundbooth were as loud as the audience's.

Despite the missteps, Brown cast a spell over the evening. For 70 minutes his characters were long on personality and never short of breath. Even with the flaws in the production, he remained likeable and adept, investing his heart in the performance while exposing his soul on the stage.

Writing: 1

Directing: 1

Acting: 2

Set: N/A

Costumes: 1

Lighting/Sound: 1