By Elaine Liner
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
We are asked to follow the life journey of Meg and Ben, who've been in love since early adolescence. Rebecca Pense, who plays Meg, works hard to give dimension to the material, which concerns Meg's habitual need to infuse her reality with an uncertain amount of fantasy. Incidents that seem to chronicle their life together are flashed on a screen in what appears to be a home movie. Boyfriend Ben (Stephen Tucker) plays her reality check and helps us understand that some of the incidents depicted on film are either exaggerations or alterations of reality.
Too often the movie is more intriguing than what is occurring onstage. The reality-fantasy theme gets overworked, and the playwright's hand is too obvious in the reason finally proffered for Meg's self-destructive flights of fantasy. The play is inventive, but its episodic nature works against its short form. In the end, fantasy (film) and reality (stage) appear to merge, but sadly not in time to keep the audience overly interested in either one.
Leonard's Car by Isabella Russell-Ides is far more successful. Presented by Ground Zero Theater Company, we are introduced to Molly--artist, bohemian, aging mother--played richly by Cindy Beall. Molly has two polar-opposite married daughters: attractive, high-maintenance Audrey (Catherine Holmes) and unadorned, uncelebrated Zoey (Elizabeth Ware). A writer and artist who can't finish what she's started, Molly is at once in love with life and fixated on death--stuck in the grieving process for her deceased boyfriend Leonard.
Daughter Zoey, who traditionally gets dumped on by Mom, feels obliged to get Mom unstuck and is willing to use every weapon at her disposal--including her own children--to see this come to pass. Audrey, who is at first preoccupied with her anger toward her mother, joins in the confrontation, doing her part to save Mom from herself. The dialogue is crisp, clever and fresh, the emotions big, brazen and ballsy.
By the play's end, the characters are nicely fleshed out, but the audience is left wanting something more--another act, perhaps. Truth is, the one-act play is a great discipline for playwrights to test the waters of their invention, letting them learn if their characters and plots are compelling enough to sustain a full-length play. Without doubt, Leonard's Car passes the test.