By Alexis Soloski
By Molly Grogan
By R. C. Baker
By Christian Viveros-Fauné
By Alexis Soloski
By Alexis Soloski
By Lilly Lampe
Harold Pinter wrote, so often, for three characters at a timeemphasizing not the direct conflict of one-on-one, but the subtle shift of alliances amongst a group. The surreal thing about The Loverand Ashes to Ashes, two Pinter one-acts mounted together under the title Harold Pinter Pair, is how Pinter continues to write for three or more characters even with only two people onstage.
In The Lover (1962), a superficially staid couple has gotten into the habit of multiplying themselves through romantic role-play; the action explodes beyond comedy when one of them tries to haul down the curtain on this dream world. If fantasies augment the dramatis personae of The Lover, schizophrenic nightmares multiply the cast of Ashes to Ashes(1996). A man probes his wife for information about her past, but each question seems merely to trigger some sort of cognitive resetonly certain recurring images of sexual and emotional violence seem to unite her fractured selves into a single traumatized whole. In each play, Pinter seasons a simple two-person cast with a dash of schizophrenia in order to explore the kind of psychological and dramatic complexity usually reserved for larger ensembles.
Under the direction of Patrick McNulty, this pairing of plays results in a richer production of each. Chris Thorn and Julianna Zinkel, in The Lover, could handle Pinters dry comedy with a bit more precision, but they certainly find the near-psychotic desperation driving the couple's gamesa crucial aspect of the play, and one that might give way to pure farce without the darker Ashes to Ashesas a companion piece. Similarly, Allen McCullough and Christine Marie Brown find the humor in Ashes to Ashes, where it exists. Any sane audience would sit down to a play called Ashes to Ashesexpecting a doom-and-gloomy evening at the theater, but, well, we're not exactly a sane audience after the madcap climax of The Lover. So, instead, we hang on every impish gleam and optimistic glimmer in the script, holding out (far longer than we should) for comfort, for resolution. The steady, morose spiral of the play is therefore all the more devastating. CHRISTOPHER GROBE
And Sophie Comes Too
By Meryl Cohn The Cherry Pit
155 Bank Street, fringenyc.org
"You think everyone is looking at you," the recently comatose mom Sophie tells the audience, "but they're not." Thats something every gratingly self-centered character would do well to grasp in And Sophie Comes Too, a comedy about three dysfunctional adult offspring who finally learn to express themselves to their mother only when she is unconscious. While the notoriously narcissistic Sophie is rendered silent due to a head wound, her single lesbian daughter Barbara, married straight daughter Rose, and transitioning female-to-male son Ray treat her sickbed as a confession booth with sometimes funny, frequently self-pitying results.
But when Sophie comes to, she suffers an after-effect of the injury: the inability to censor herself from sharing everything, be it a new philosophy or a raunchy fantasy. Barbaras central plotline about trying to adopt a baby from the confines of the closet takes a backseat, tying up tidily in a scheme thats downright unethical. Any laughs there might have existed in this cliché-packed piece make way for a sappy fable about the capacity to reinvent oneself, "even if you're old." SHARYN JACKSON
Its easy to imagine why North Dakotans were once desperate enough to try attracting more people to their state by dropping the North from its name. Loki, NDthe town and subject of Population: 8, Nicholas Grays wistful, contemplative new playboasts between five and nine residents at any given time. Its blustery and freezing, and theres no one else around for miles.
Population: 8 stitches together the tales of Lokis sweetly quirky inhabitantsa teenage radio host with under 10 listeners, a deaf kid who talks to cloudsinto a meditation on the importance of home and community, and the ravages of isolation. Amanda Hagys set conjures a tiny, self-contained world: A white clapboard backdrop serves as home and church, and as a screen for projected fantasies and nightmares. Residents track their fluctuating numbers through the ritual updating of the towns population sign (when it drops to Population: 6, trauma ensues). Gray frequently dips into sentimentality, but Marc Stuart Weitzs clean direction, and an enthusiastic ensemble cast, make Loki worth the trek north. MIRIAM FELTON-DANSKY
During his long lifetime, Allen Ginsberg only publicly read Kaddish, a long narrative poem mourning his mother's madness and death, a few times. He once explained that reading it too often risked turning the piece into a performance rather than an event. The danger in staging the poem, as Donnie Mather does for the Fringe Festival, is that the conventions of theater, relished too much for their own sake, can get in the way of the power of "Kaddish" as a naked, ritual event.