Directed by Jennie Litt and Will Provost
At North House tonight and tomorrow
HARVARD THEATERGOERS have seen their fair share of bizarre dramatic mutations--these days, no one dares balk at Shakespeare staged as a Sid Vicious rock opera or Brecht in a dormitory bathtub. Unfortunately, original student-written plays never seem to find equal stage time.
Enter Shepard's Follies, the brain-child--or rather brain-children (it's really three shorter plays done in showcase)--of undergraduate directors Will Provost and Jennie Litt. Provost wrote and directed "A Slow Day in the Park" and "Some Game" (the latter not performed the night of this review), and Litt developed "The Unsupervised Infant" in a workshop with the cast.
Understandably, Shepard's Follies lacks the tightness and structural discipline of well-established works, Sid Vicious and bathtubs notwithstanding. But while much virtue lies in Provost's and Litt's creative endeavors, and while both audience and actors seemed to enjoy the new material, Shepard's Follies falls short in its lack of professional polish.
"A Slow Day in the Park" is less of a slow day and more of a mildly slow twenty minutes during which we en-counter Hal (Kris Kobach) and Norman (Will Provost), two men sitting, of all places, in a park. Norman, sporting a Mets hat, turns to Hal, sporting tacky Humphrey Bogart-wear, and whines in diluted Brooklynese, "You were eyein' me."
"No," retorts Hal, "you were eyeing me." And so it goes for the next nineteen minutes, as we learn that both Hal and Norman actually know that each is eyein' the other. Soon, however, the farce of spying spies attempts to be serious. Norman asks Hal, "How's your wife?" and we are then to assume that these two men know each other on more than just a superficial level.
To Provost's credit, his portrayal of Norman, like Woody Allen playing the roles he himself invents, has a certain personal and charismatic flair. Kobach's performance is adequate as well. Nevertheless, the threads tying the dialogue together feel a bit knotty at times. "A Slow Day in the Park" would benefit from a slight revamping of character motivation.
Ditto for "The Unsupervised Infant." Litt's workshop creation, though full of energy and hysterically hyperexagerrated Jewish angst, has a disturbing stream-of-consciousness aura which smacks of rancid Saturday Night Live. And it's silly to boot.
The basic story stems from the unlikely premise of a family plagued by an anonymous baby's telephone calls. This incessant ring-ring, goo-goo-ga-ga subsequently transforms itself into a tenuous metaphor for familial deterioration--the Goldstein clan find themselves drowning in lunacy.
THOUGH BEREFT of any truly relevant emotional depth, Litt's journey into the ridiculous has its humorous moments. As a result of the unsupervised infant's nasty habit, Papa Harry Goldstein (Billy Salloway) turns into a wino. Mama Nancy (Jennifer Harris) liberates herself from housewifehood by taking on a job as a pancake flipper at the neighborhood IHOP. Young Benjamin Goldstein (Alfred Naddaff) finds solace in the ways of the Hare Krishna, and his sister Melissa, played brilliantly by Lucy Soutter, pukes her way into heavy-duty bulimia. This is the disparate stuff workshop pieces are made of.