FIT Starts

Festival of Independent Theatres serves up a rich thespian buffet

Director-designer Michael Galgan's harrowing production has the pitch-perfect helpless protagonist in Lydia Mackay, who is of course the ticketbuyer's stand-in, the door into which all us "normal" people may enter and be tormented by Nina and Taddy. MacKay sends herself through the wringer as Ellen submits to the "lies, games and jokes," trapped by the simple desire to learn why these crude clowns know a few of her darkest secrets. As for Brenda Galgan and Denny Day, you can practically smell them from the back row, which leads me to the panic that may be at the core of Stay Where You Are. At one point, Ellen wonders if she is "one of them," and you get a small epiphany--the revulsion that many of us feel when walking by unwashed, babbling and snoring homeless people often has to do with our fear that we're closer to that kind of abject desperation than we want to admit.

And finally, the most conventional of the grab-bag of FIT shorts I saw last weekend was Lanford Wilson's The Great Nebula in Orion. Wingspan Theatre Company produces the story of two erstwhile college friends, now middle-aged women with divergent versions of success under their designer belts. It has one of those ostentatious titles that keeps you looking out for the approaching theme that allows one of the characters to casually--or grandiloquently--slip the phrase "the great nebula in Orion" into stage conversation. Director Rene Moreno here works with two magnetic performers, which is a good thing because Lanford Wilson has regurgitated a long-since digested situation: career woman and family woman secretly covet what each other has. Actually, it's a bit more complicated than that. Sheilah Landahl as Louise, a feted designer with an apartment overlooking Central Park, admits in one of the funnier moments that she only says she envies proud mother Carrie (Mary Anna Austin) because it sounds good. This pair from the class of 1960 have met accidentally in Bergdorf's after a six-year estrangement, and over a bottle of brandy--alcohol being a playwright's most relied-upon lubricator of revelations and long-hidden resentments--discuss their classmates, their lovers, their achievements. The first half of The Great Nebula in Orion is the most entertaining, because Carrie and Louise break from their polite mutual admiration to tell the audience what they really feel. Carrie's family, Louise informs us, was "church-mouse poor but with lineage out the ass." Austin and Landahl know how to keep the bitchery bubbling, but once Wilson cranks up the pathos volume, his characters come to seem less sorrowful than spoiled. They transform from twinkling points of comic light to big balls of gas right in front of us.

Rachel Eiland-Hall and Mark Farr are incarnations from a 1920s Paris in Our Endeavors' fleshing-out of Gertrude Stein's wordplay.
Amanda Embry
Rachel Eiland-Hall and Mark Farr are incarnations from a 1920s Paris in Our Endeavors' fleshing-out of Gertrude Stein's wordplay.


Runs Thursday-Sunday through July 28. Call (214) 670-8749.
Bath House Cultural Center, 521 E. Lawther

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