Bad Choices

If the flagrant cliches of character and situation weren't enough to diminish the work, the script contains as much dramatic action as a George Bush press conference. The setup for the story consumes most of Act One. Various townspeople reveal their biographies and opinions, over and over again. Act Two begins with more talk, talk, talk, and then, out of the blue -- as though the author suddenly realized the play was moving as slow as molasses in winter -- he throws in gratuitous brutality. The play dribbles to a close, so much so that the audience on the night I attended didn't know whether it was time to clap until the actors took their curtain calls.

For the most part the direction by Cejas adequately served the work, although the cavernous stage of the Colony Theater didn't help. It dwarfed the impact of many two-character scenes and certainly showed in the worst possible light set designer John Lengel's amateurish work, which consisted solely of a shaky-looking, badly decorated housefront.

As for the actors, their efforts to be realistic and sincere rarely rose above competent, with one exception: Jerrod Hise as Richie. Hise stole the show as he poured honest venom, frustration, and the cruelty of ignorant youth solidly into his role. Paul Michael Quick as the white supremacist also did some fine work, particularly during the moments when he earnestly and glibly explained the terrifying, twisted logic of his sect. But Tom Amick as Mayor Herbert played the milquetoast so weakly that he lacked any noticeable presence, and Miriam Kulick as Alice often strayed dangerously near sheer phoniness.

Many people say that I should encourage new plays no matter how good or bad they are. That's akin to saying, "I want a hamburger restaurant in town and don't care if it serves squirrel meat, rat meat, or sirloin." Miami deserves sirloin.

All companies wishing to present original work should seek a dramaturg. New-play festivals can only serve the community if their stages shine with true artistic creativity, and to achieve this, the wise producer hires a professionally trained, discerning eye; he doesn't rely purely on the actors and directors in his company to choose new plays. Everyone has a special skill in this collaborative business called theater; it's time more South Florida theater owners recognized the skills of and the desperate need for the dramaturg.

Stage Notes
The second annual Key West Theatre Festival, scheduled to run from September 22 to October 3, looks like an artistically promising and enjoyable event. Playwrights, directors,and actors from New York, Los Angeles, Florida, and other spots around the nation will be traveling way down U.S. 1 to participate. The eighteen new plays chosen for production will use the facilities of all four theatrical venues in the area A the Tennessee Williams Fine Arts Center, the Waterfront Playhouse, the Red Barn Theatre, and the San Carlos Institute.

In addition to the plays, highlights include a rendition -- in full Blanche DuBois drag A of scenes from Tennessee Williams's -- Streetcar Named Desire to be performed by his brother, Dakin Williams; and a two-day dramatic writing seminar by Backstage columnist and playwright Jeffrey Sweet.

If writing nasty letters about my work isn't enough, you finally have another option: call me. I'm now a regular guest on the Michael Aller WSBH-AM (1490) call-in radio show (dial 532-1490) from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. every Wednesday. I'll be talking about general theater topics, such as whether or not critics, wracked with guilt, wear hair shirts to bed.

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