AMERICAN RAPTURE Loneliness Off B’way Style
Loneliness and failure to communicate. Lost love. Unrequited love. Violence. Not much fun. And so it goes with American Rapture which has just opened at the Beckett Theatre presented by the Oberon Theatre Ensemble.
Under the uneven direction of Alex Dinelaris who has written six short plays – actually vignettes – depicting various people in various stages of loneliness and discomfort alongside Hello Out There by William Saroyan where two outcasts find themselves falling for each other in a small Texas jail we witness in a very odd way their various stories and the harsh realities of life as seen through the eyes of these two playwrights. Truth and justice or the lack there-of are prevailing themes.
William Saroyan didn’t think much of Hello Out There. It’s a strange piece that brought us Al Pacino in his first Broadway stage appearance in 1963. Here we have a very good Stewart Walker as the wayward gambler incarcerated for a supposed rape and the jail house cook skillfully played by Dianna Martin with a tenderness and a longing to reach out to even an alleged criminal for some affection. Two beautifully written and acted character studies.
Spin Cycle deals with a TV host (Donovan Patton) meeting a stranger (Brad Fryman) on a train platform and being shot by him. The stranger is arrested and coerced into signing a confession by an abusive cop (William Laney). A famous attorney (Laura Siner) takes on his case. She is the same lawyer that had been interviewed by said TV host and walked out on him. I won’t spoil the plot. This is by far the most interesting of the pieces. The dialogue crackles and the way the short play is structured is very clever. All acting is superb.
Blind Date is short and hysterical. It’s subtitled “Voices” – which says it all. Two people on a blind date (Donovan Patton and Jane Cortney) have two other actors alongside voicing their actual thoughts as opposed to what they are actually saying (Max Darwin and Christine Verleny). Ditto for the Waiter (Brad Fryman and William Laney). Very clever. Very funny. And just the right length.
Rain is subtitled “Ghosts”. Amanda (Jane Cortney) and Fritz (Max Darwin) are attending a ten year reunion where Sean (Donovan Patton) is a no show until he does show as a ghost – a memory of lost love.
Juggling Jacqueline subtitled “Memories” has Jack, Jacqueline’s son (Vince Gatton) with his therapist (Laura Siner) trying to deal with the memories of his dead alcoholic abusive mother (Christine Verleny) who he learned to juggle for. Father (Brad Fryman) makes a sight gag appearance.
In a solo piece Forgiven Jane Cortney confesses – at length – to a priest who she thinks is gay and warns him to stay away from young boys. She’s very compelling.
As mentioned, American Rapture is an odd evening of theatre. Interesting and never boring. Bittersweet. Some pleasant, unexpected things happen but not enough to make it a totally satisfying evening.