Vagina Dialogues &C.

Sounds accurate enough, doesn't it? Glowacki's caught the chaotic spirit of life in contemporary Moscow, and in his best scenes he's grounded it in a tangle of human feelings that has the tensile strength of the original Chekhovian weave. The only thing he hasn't done is turned the material into a play. Chekhov concealed but never neglected his dramatic action; Glowacki just paints the condition. Now it's funny, now it's sad, now it's humiliating, now it's horrifying. But the condition never changes, and the people never evolve as a result of it; they just plod on from episode to episode. Both the gangster and the moviemaker business give off a faintly rancid whiff of day-old commercial goods, and the play's constant jump-cutting and crisscrossing, though well handled in Lisa Peterson's production, tend to look more like glitzy showboating than dramaturgic economy.

It's really too bad, because at his most responsible, Glowacki's a powerfully impressive writer, and Peterson, whose productions of less flashy authors tend to look obnoxiously mannered, is wholly attuned to his style, producing an unpressured, steady flow of visual events and a battery of extremely fine performances: Suzanne Shepherd as a motherly neighbor, Lee Pace as her entrepreneurial son, Bill Buell as the girls' military father, Alicia Goranson and Jessica Hecht as the tenderest and the most heart-bruised of the sisters, and Steven Rattazzi as the double-dealing documaker are all doing first-class work. But the effect's like that of a Russian government office: Items get shifted smartly from desk to desk, but to no avail, because the office has no actual function.

Kate Burton and Martha Plimpton: sexual perversity in Boston
photo: Michal Daniel
Kate Burton and Martha Plimpton: sexual perversity in Boston


Boston Marriage
By David Mamet
Joseph Papp Public Theater
425 Lafayette Street

The Fourth Sister
By Janusz Glowacki
Vineyard Theatre
108 East 15th Street

Body Blows
By Tim Miller
150 First Avenue

Tim Miller, in contrast, has many actual functions: confessional, narrational, communal, political, and then some. He means to stimulate your erotic sense and your imagination, provoke you into rethinking your premises, nail you on the issues, and show you a good time. The best part is that he actually accomplishes all these things to some degree: Miller is what you call an effective artist—all the more so because he doesn't barrage you with effects. All he has to go on is himself: his queer body, his voice, his sensibility. This can leave scars; in Body Blows, assembled from pieces old and new, he literally shows you one or two of them. The squeamish are advised to hide their heads during the sequence with the circular saw—or would be, if there were the remotest possibility of Miller harming another human being. But that isn't in him; he's too busy fighting a government that systematizes harm, a fact of which he has again become living proof. One reason Miller's necessary, just now, is that this is the last time you'll see him as a resident of the U.S.: Eight years with the same American spouse still won't get an Australian a green card if the couple are of the same gender. So Miller and his lover Alistair will reside in London as of February. Be smart and catch him while he's here.

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