By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Over in the little Stone Cottage theater, a new group of college drama grads calling themselves singleTree theatreenters the Out of the Loop fest with Rites of Relationship. Four one-acts by famous playwrights comprise the program, all looking at the problems that bedevil married couples.
In Shel Silverstein's The Lifeboat Is Sinking, Jen (Jaynie Saunders) dares husband Sherwin (Lance Currie) to admit whom he would throw overboard in a hypothetical emergency--her, their daughter or his mother? It's a no-win situation for Sherwin, whose every answer causes Jen to explode. It's a no-win for the singleTree players, too. Directed by Amber Werley, they shriek their lines and flail their arms. This script calls for sly delivery and a light touch, not slam-bang slapstick.
Ditto One Tennis Shoe, also by Silverstein and also directed by Werley. Rather than let the New Yorker-style humor sneak up on the audience in this conversation between husband and wife about her tendency to hoard found objects in a Bloomingdale's shopping bag, actors Greg MacPherson and Jamie Korthase go over the top and around the bend.
At Home by Michael Weller, directed by Chad Tiller, is a laborious one-act about a couple (Saunders, Nick Orand) repetitiously arguing and making up while waiting for dinner guests. Problem here is the actors' tendency to play into every emotion, instead of against them. They act like self-conscious actors on a stage, instead of real people at their own dining table. Saunders tries to set the plates down sadly. Orand drinks his fake wine angrily. People don't behave that way. Only bad actors do.
Bill Sebastian teams up with Korthase for a more successful shorty, The Problemby A.R. Gurney. The actors are so young they look like kids playing dress-up, but at least they play nicely together in this bubbly scene about a college prof, his sophisticated wife and her very swollen belly, which they suddenly seem to have noticed. The play offers deliciously biting commentary on limousine-liberal attitudes. The actors deliver Gurney's lines crisply and coolly. Of all the singleTree players, these two do not chew the minimal scenery to shreds.
One sign of beginner actors and directors is their tendency to let mispronounced words get into performances. No one in this group seems to have been clued that "Pierre Cardin" should not rhyme with "harden" or that "frisson" doesn't rhyme with "mission." Details, kids, details.