Brief encounters

Little Delusions

Two one-acts
Common Basis Theatre Company
Midtown International Theatre Festival
Common Basis Theatre
750 Eighth Ave. (279-4200 or
Equity showcase (closes Aug. 26)
Review by Andres J. Wrath

Illusions and shattered perceptions are at the heart of the Common Basis Theatre Company's double billed Little Delusions. [Editor's note: On the evening reviewed, a regular part of the program, Pizza Man, was not performed.] The evening, although it had many virtues, was a little wobbly in the focus of its first piece, Dig a Hole, Find a Finger by John Ford Noonan, but hit high marks for its second piece, Little Delusions by Angela Cantelli.

Although Dig a Hole, Find a Finger has many intriguing ideas, the puzzle of who Emma (Victoria Lazar) is to Sissy (Stephanie Schmiderer) is a little hazy. Smartly, the play doesn't explain much, but it tends to baffle for the wrong reasons. It's not very clear who the mother is or why these two women are even speaking to each other.

There were moments, though, that hit home, like Emma's talking about the airplane ride; and the ending of the piece, although a little predictable, gives the play a clarity that was more often than not missing. There was nothing wrong about the directing by Brett Sullivan Santry, the writing by Noonan, or the acting by Lazar or Schmiderer. If anything, the work was honest and forceful. What was evident however was that so much of the work concentrated on the emotions that the story in its execution seemed to have lost focus and tended to tune out rather than illuminate.

Little Delusions by Angela Cantelli was a strikingly lucid piece in comparison. Its opening scene pits Gina (Cantelli), a novice actress with a dream, against Mr. Weiss (Fred Waggoner), an acting teacher. In the scene, he tries to get to her central problem as an actress, which is the lack of passion.

The play asks, what is passion? And where does it come from? Enter Frank (Ron Moreno), who becomes her scene partner and then a brief fling. What transpires is an alcoholic/codependent nightmare. At first, Frank seems to have been ripped from the James Dean school of acting, and then, as his behavior becomes less and less acceptable, Gina realizes she is falling in love with this very troubled man. By turns funny and disturbing, Little Delusions hits hard. What was not entirely believable, however, were the offstage remarks about the improvement of Gina's acting in a few days after Mr. Weiss has torn her to shreds. The acting by Cantelli, Moreno, and Waggoner was first-rate. As always, Marcia Haufrecht did a great job at getting to the emotional core of her actors, and here she gave them ample room to strut their stuff. If anything, the up-in-the-air ending seemed to disappoint because we never really see how Gina uses what she has learned. The uncredited set was serviceable; the lighting by Michael Schoffel was very well done.
Box Score:

Writing: 1

Directing: 2

Acting: 2

Set: 1

Costumes: 1

Lighting/Sound: 2

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Copyright 2000 Andres J. Wrath