By Colette Burson
Directed by Tim Cunningham
Playwrights Collective
Equity Showcase (closed)
Review by Marshall Yaeger

It would be a pleasure to watch these talented actors perform a real meat-and-potatoes script. But although the odor of cooked potatoes pervaded the tiny performance space, the audience was offered mainly fumes and cutting boards, and nothing much substantial to take home.

Not that the writer wasn't talented, nor that she didn't admirably articulate her theme of how men abuse women's self-esteem to satisfy sexual needs, causing women to betray their own sex. But the moral to be drawn from this love triangle was neither interesting nor new.

The play's main problem was with the dramaturgy: specifically, the clarity of actions (was someone going crazy?) and the rough transitions, which often made the play seem like stringing mismatched pearls into the kind of theatrical necklace where someone drinks a brandy and gets drunk two minutes later. The play's episodic structure meant that several striking images, like the sight of someone's impaling a condom, got mixed up in a weird riff about lubricants and expiration dates on rubbers.

Leslie Lyles played ``Maggo,'' who lives in a war-torn country where every cigarette is valued. Lyles's emotional palette was thick and lovely as she acted up a storm when the light of her life, played by Keith Reddin, wormed his way into her vagina with a smoothness Charles Boyer's Gaslight couldn't have improved.

The acting, although fiercely superior, was nevertheless reminiscent of actors' exercise scenes where interesting objects and situations are suggested by the teacher to motivate everyday actions. Thus, when Maggo and her friend, played by Rebecca Nelson, get hysterical with laughter, it was mostly the actresses who laughed.

The director's choice for illustrating the eponymous plundering would have worked better for a photo essay on date rape than a motion picture or a play about war. Nevertheless, he cast the play to near perfection, and staged the ensemble artfully.

A. J. Weissbard wrapped the walls of the peculiar set in muslin. The effect was different, but disengagingly mysterious. Also, his primitive on/off lighting design was too makeshift to be particularly effective.

The only special effect that really worked was the sound of the siren that introduced the play, which was completely authentic. Why, then, when actors described the sounds of bombs and bullets, even looking out a (real) window after them, was there nothing more to share with the audience than the actual New York street sounds?

The costumes, like much of the play, suggested the unkempt world of self-absorbed undergraduates. In a similar way, the author's theme would have been more appropriate for a frat house than for people on the outskirts of war, desperate to survive.

Box Score:
Writing 1
Directing 1
Acting 1
Set 1
Costumes 1
Lighting/Sound 0
Copyright 1996 Marshall Yaeger
Return to Home Page