Short Notice

Michael Louis Wells's The "I" Word: Interns, in contrast, is marred by only minor flaws. Monicagate's about to crash wide open, Clinton's taking photo ops with visiting Czech president (and Obie-winning playwright) Vaclav Havel, and a boy-and-girl team of White House interns, with a female ex-intern who's been canned for leaking tidbits to the press, play out a mini-triangle that tests their varying notions of trust, integrity, and ethical behavior, partly under the eagle eye of their hardened, scary superior— who turns out, like the triangle's tensions, not to be so scary after all, though politics is. Wells's lapse is to let his writing get slightly over-explanatory, while Jamie Richards's direction clutters the set with needless objects, and the younger actors' work with a "reality" that sometimes fades into an inaudible mutter. Pity, since Wells handles today's Beltway jargon with brains and even a bit of Shavian brio. Fortunately, Katherine Leask, as the fearsome boss, is a shining example to her charges— crisply articulate, soundly centered, and infallible at timing her laugh lines.

What, one wonders, would an actress with Leask's flair have made of Susan Kim's Dreamtime for Alice? Not that Cecelia deWolf, who performs this monologic trudge over familiar ground, is in any way to blame; it's just that we've heard it all before, and Kim takes an unconscionably long time to repeat the old news. A middle-aged, middle-class American woman, with a boring dead-end job and a newly deceased marriage, gets stranded in the Australian outback, where she tells her troubles to the dingoes. They yelp and stay away, presumably agreeing with me.

John Bolger (left) and Larry Gleason in Infancy: a perilous ride on the anthro-bus
Carol Rosegg
John Bolger (left) and Larry Gleason in Infancy: a perilous ride on the anthro-bus

Details

The Ages of Man
By Thornton Wilder
Blue Heron Arts Center
121 West 24th Street
886-1889

'Marathon '99: Series B'
Plays by Frank D. Gilroy, Michael Louis Wells, Susan Kim, and Stuart Spencer
Ensemble Studio Theatre
549 West 52nd Street
247-4982

But if Kim's ramblings cue a good snooze, be sure someone pokes you awake for Stuart Spencer's In the Western Garden, the evening's gem. It's 1989; a famous old abstract expressionist painter and his patient, sagacious wife are visited on their Hamptons farm by his longtime dealer, with a hot young conceptual artist in tow. The dealer, on the verge of bankruptcy owing to the crash in art prices, desperately needs product; the conceptualist wants either to replace his boyhood hero or to subsume him into the anonymity his pomo installations express. The artist and his wife have secrets of their own to unveil. Packed into the play's short space are a neat, effective intrigue, a fierce debate about the nature of creativity, four vivid characters, and, under Judy Minor's loose but not lax direction, three strong, touching performances by Robert Hogan, David Margulies, and Peggity Price. The only blemish on this otherwise perfect picture is Rob Morrow's drab, perfunctory rendering of the young conceptualist. He can't hinder either the wit or the nearly palpable passion behind Spencer's mordant contrivance.

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