Easing us into the wacky mode, Edward Albee's "The American Dream" appears at first glance to be the setting of a normal family gathering. Addressing each other as "mommy," "daddy" and "grandma," the characters soon let us know they are a tad off-kilter, if not totally off their rockers. Saraj J. Heifetz, as Mommy, carries the show with her "charming" mean-spirited and forceful role, threatening to call the van man to cart Grandma away. Oh, how we miss Mommy when she's off stage looking for a glass of water. Thank goodness she comes back to deliver lines like, "You have to forgive Grandma, she's rural."
Crystal Oakley as the 80-something granny, has the voice, shuffle and boney geriatric gestures down pat. All she needs are a few convincing wrinkles. She delivers the play's funniest lines, summing up Albee's take on old people in a half dozen mini-monologues. "People don't say goodbye to old people," she says, "because they think it frightens us." Justin Dray pumps up the wackiness upon his entrance in cowboy boots and skimpy spandex shorts revealing, well, his endowment, in addition to an alternative motive. David Denson as Daddy and Jen Meharg as Mrs. Barker, round out the quirky cast in warming us up for the next two doses of absurdity.
Let's pose this question to the director concerning the second play. Is it easier to find a pair of actors who are gymnasts or a pair of gymnasts who can act? Patton reaches a happy median casting Morrie Piersol and Michelle Hill whose dual talents meet the physically challenging roles of the husband-and-wife team in "Acrobats," a very clever and very short play by Israel Horovitz. While performing death-defying acrobatic routines, the husband and wife spout their disdain for one another. What would you do, if your husband, who holds you overhead in a precarious position, announces he wants a divorce? You'd do what the wife does, smile and choose your words carefully. Following some very brave stunts, we breathe a sigh of relief that no one is injured. For their performances, Piersol and Hill deserve a couple of pats on the back, or better yet, a couple of back braces. Before the performance, we were warned about cell phones and beepers, but no one announced the disclaimer: "Do not try this play at home."
The one-act is cute and absurd. And maybe not so goofy: disgruntled married acrobatic teams deserve divorces, too.
"Interview" by Jean-Claude van Itallie wraps up the evening's offerings with a piece of experimental theater reminiscent of a Jackson Pollock painting. Illuminated by some outstanding performances by individual cast members, (Casey Schaeffer and Almedin Muminovic) the one-act is a hodgepodge of ideas, dialogue and movement. It starts off clearly enough, applicants undergoing job interviews, but detonates into a smattering of off-the-wall scenarios. Van Itallie's message, probably influenced by marijuana fumes, is definitely blurred. While generally entertaining, the play is dated and could have been trimmed for better effect. S
"Triple Play" at The Firehouse Theatre, 1609 W. Broad St., runs through Nov. 24. Tickets cost $8-$15. Call 355-2001.
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