The weekend beginning Friday, November 16 through Sunday the 18th , the Fall Fringe of Marin presents its final weekend of two programs of new, original one act plays under the auspices of the Dominican University Players in Meadowlands Hall on its San Rafael campus.
Program One plays on Saturday, November 17. It opens with Shirley King’s Hollywood Confidential, directed by Robin Schild. It is a stylized spy spoof, complete with dark glasses and trench coats. Set to a James Bond soundtrack, Gloria (Gigi Benson), and Duckman (Monty Paulson) enter, guns drawn. The timing, especially in the opening choreography is spot on. Things get rocky when Duckman, believing he is a superhero out to save the day, reveals his outfit beneath his coat, dons headgear and flippers. His partner is not amused.
Mysterious Ways , a solo performance, follows. It was written by George Dykstra, who also plays a bereaved widower who cannot let his wife go. He celebrates their anniversary the same way every year. He speaks to her as though she’s in the other room, and goes into long expository remembrances of things past until, tragically, he realizes, again, she’s gone forever. A phone call from his grown daughter brings him back to reality. Dykstra gives a well-shaded, deep, but clichéd, insight into this common life passage.
A brief scene change and we are surprised to see a man locked in a bathroom, sitting on a toilet. He watches through the glass pane and listens to his deluded wife in the next room rehearsing her TV meteorologist audition routine. This is Martin A. David’s self-directed absurdist comedy, Minerva and Melrose. Throughout the play, Minerva (Lauren Arrow), an adroit malapropist, spouts them constantly (“Pinochle” for “pinnicle”, etc.) as she ponders her career options, deciding on this one then that, each time believing she will be a instant star. Melrose , played by Jon Zax, exuding a kindof Harpo Marx vibe, encourages her, but utters snide comic asides as he fiddles with toilet paper. She has an accident; Melrose unlocks himself from the bathroom, finally freeing himself from his indulgent, demanding wife. Arrow, a beautiful, big woman who moves with grace, has been seen in several Fringe plays over the years.
Don Samson’s The Game, follows. Directed by Carol Eggers, it features a young married couple. Tom, played by Fringe favorite Rick Roitinger, with impeccable timing, and Marion (a believable Emily Soleil) have been invited by friends to join them at a Swingers party. Tom seems willing to try it, do something different, but Emily hesitates. They banter, argue, and speculate about it and its eventual outcome. Emily turns the tables on him which changes Tom’s mind.
How Salt & Pepper Got Put into Shaker is a delightful, costumed, animated bit from playwright Annette Lust’s Pantry Tales series. Directed and choreographed by Pamela Rand the play is an informative piece, narrated by the French Cook (Charles Grant in a perfect French accent). Originally, salt and pepper were served in small bowls with silver spoons. But Salt (Terri Barker), in white, and Pepper (Cynthia Sims ), in black, argue and fight about which of them is the most important to enhance foods and please diners, scattering their grains all over the place, making a mess. This upsets Cook, who decides, in order to avoid this, they must be put into separate shakers. A nice touch was the court-jester-like jingly hats.
Writer and director, Michael Ferguson’s thoughtful, though didactic at times, Sharp Edges tells the story of a budding relationship between a subdued Melanie (Jennifer Cedar-Kraft ) and an insistent Daniel (David Louis Klein). Though they seemed to have a lot in common, they’ve parted ways. When they run into each other during an intermission at a symphony concert, they discuss their differences. Daniel is honest about his sexual needs and how he sees women, while Melanie, who’s had a troubled life and suffered rape, wants understanding and companionship.
Program One ends with the fast-paced, funny, Sunday Sundays written and skillfully directed by Peter Hsieh, about a group of friends who play croquet together every Sunday. But, this time, someone forgot to bring the balls. The piece opens with the four Archie (Jason Hurtado), Nate (Michael Lee Lund), Wade (Everado Leon), and Krista (Elizabeth Curtis), frozen in various croquet playing positions, mallets raised at odd angles. Angry over the missing balls, they begin to fight, advancing downstage swinging mallets, arguing and blaming, in Shakespearean English. The scene is rewound, back to frozen statues, starting over. This happens several times, each time the players advance and speak various dialects: Southern, then hyper-tragic drama. The funniest were the robot and zombie croquet player zombies. Excellent choreography.
Some Mime Troupe and Clown Conservatory regulars opened Program Two with the slap-stick, clown piece, Get a Date Show, written by Stacy Lapin & Pamela Rand, with the collaboration of Joan Mankin, and directed by Clown Conservatory founder Paoli Lacy. Based on popular TV date shows of the ‘70s,- except that this one appears intended for single seniors- it features an Emcee, Johnny J. Johnson (an acrobatic Ross Travis); contestants, Joan “The Champ” Longjump (Joan Mankin), Gladys Ruffelshire (Pamela Rand); and the lucky date Arthur (Pickle Family Circus alum Randy Craig). White-haired Arthur is wheelchair-bound, assisted by his comely attendant, Kay (Tristan Cunningham). Background music is provided by the Ukulele Musician, Myron Seth Isaacs. Contestant questions trended towards elder-sex, and contestants judged by physical prowess. Who won a date with Arthur? The play was enhanced with a slide show by Rachel Cohen.
Second on the program is On With the Wind in which seniors at a elder facility gather to watch a video of “Gone With the Wind” (the “G” on the cover was missing, hence the reference to “On-“). It was written and directed by Carol Sheldon, with a lively cast: Loreen (Kathy Holly), Twyla (Roberta Maloy), Lawrence (Michael Collins), Beverly (Donna Andrews); and Floramae (Floralynn Isaacson), dressed as a character in the film. As they watch, they talk about the film, its characters, plot, and quote from it; they discuss each others’ outfits, past relationships, embarrassing issues of growing older, and elder sex. However it never gets maudlin and is quite funny. Twlya’s droll remarks keeps the repartee from getting smarmy and piteous.
Arrangements by Clare J. Baker, directed by Gina Pandiani is a comedy about making after-death arrangements. It takes place in the funeral director Mr. Ashley’s office (reliable Charles Grant). He can’t decide if his saucy, exotic client, Reddi Witherspoon, played by spunky Terri Barker, is flirting with him or what. She appears to be rolling in dough and wants to be cremated. There are many allusions to ashes- including his name- and puns throughout.
One Time at the Zoo, a lively romp, written & directed by William O. Chessman III with choreography by Susan Amacker, is the perfect apré-intermission play. The Beasleys- Pamela (Susan Amacker), and Gerald ( Michael A. O’Brien), and daughter Victoria (wonderful 7th grade actor Melissa Schepers)- visit the zoo. Victoria teases and taunts the chimp (Ken Sollazzo, thankfully not in a gorilla suit). Mom and Dad try to give her a lesson in evolution; how close a relation chimps are to humans. She isn’t listening. When Dad gets too close to the cage, the chimp goes to work on him and somehow they change places. Amacker’s choreography works to both Sollazzo’s and O’Brien’s advantage. To see Dad’s melt-down from a staid, composed man is priceless.
G. Randy Kasten wrote and directed Supplementing, a drama dealing with infidelity. Husband and wife actors Diane and David Rodrigues play married couple Mindy and Pete. When Mindy keeps arriving home from work later and later each night, Pete has his suspicions. Mindy is concerned with her looks, and aging, afraid she’s losing her attractiveness. The short play is seen in several separate scenes. In each, the actors wear different clothes to depict the passage of time. And Pete is always on the couch drinking. It is difficult to portray a drunk. Even tippler Richard Burton said he had to get sober before he could play one. In the final scene, Pete delivers a believable drunken monologue to himself in the mirror.
Shaw, written and directed by Ollie Mae Trost Welch, has Shaw (Kevin Copps as G.B Shaw) walking haltingly with a cane, talking to himself about God. This is a well-known Shavian trope. Shaw was an admitted and proud atheist. However, after his death at 93, people specfulated about what he would say if he met God, and plays have been written about it. In this one, Shaw and God (played by Jerrund Bojeste) debate His existence and, where, exactly is Shaw now? Heaven? Hell? Purgatory? Shaw asks God to prove his existence by making him (Shaw), the age he felt happiest. It’s difficult for anyone to emulate G.B. Shaw, but Copps pulls it off, even with a slight Irish accent. How does one play God? He could be anything, or anyone, even a she. With his matter-of-fact delivery, Bojeste in his pony-tail, beard, embroidered vest, slacks, and loafers? Sure he could be God. Why not?
This thought-provoking play is followed by the hilarious mystery farce, The Trouble at Table 23, written by Charley Lerrigo and directed by Amy Crumpacker. Bill (Manik Bahl) wants milk for his coffee. He’s staying in a hotel, visits the dining room and asks the receptionist, known only as “Actor” played dead-pan by Jean Davis, who gives him trouble, but no milk; then a waitress, again played by Actor, this time in an ill-fitting wig, also gives him a hard time, but no milk. She disappears. A body turns up. It’s discovered he’s a thief (John Ferreira). Then, of course, a trench-coated detective, again played by Actor, who pins the murder on Bill. Man! All the dude wanted was milk for his coffee! The audience laughed throughout at the absurdity of it all. Poor Bill.
She Has a Plan, by George Freek, directed by Jim Colgan, ends Program Two. A married couple played by Ayelette Robinson as Martina Hoople, and George Doerr as Henry Hoople, visit a marriage counselor, Ms. Pennyworth (Cynthia Sims). Martina wants Henry, who really appears to be a weak, ineffectual man- much credit to Doerr’s acting- to be more manly, stand up for himself, and not be such a wimp. Marina and Pennyworth have devised a plan, unknown to Henry, which involves Bert, Martina’s big, beefy ex-, perfectly rendered by Simon Patton.
Visit www.Fringofmarin for directions and information.