A powerful and compelling production of Albert Innaurato's one-act play, "The Transfiguration of Benno Blimpie," is being staged at St. John's Church under the capable direction of Mark Redfield.
On the same bill is a deliciously dark satire, "Out at Sea," by Slawomir Mrozek (also directed by Redfield), which, for the most part, holds its own with the heavier play. Both are running tonight through Saturday.
In the first presentation, surrealistic in nature, an unfortunate, obese young man is perched on a great pile of empty food cartons (a metaphoric symbol of his obsession with food).
He is Benno. Unloved and cruelly abused by his family and society, he has decided to eat himself to death. By doing so he feels he will escape the inequities of life and transfigure himself into something worthy of love.
Treated as though he were nothing all his life, Benno's memorflashbacks -- ugly scenes with his quarreling parents and lecherous grandfather -- eliminate his physical presence from the action. Benno relives his tortured past in the third person, wryly -- commenting from his observer's station.
Despite the awful rawness of the work, there is a lyrical poetry in Benno's dispassionate account of the horrors that brought him to his final decision. Innaurato's point is his denouncement of social acceptance by appearance. Inside Benno is a saintly spirit, the only true human being in the play.
Brian P. Chetelat's performance as Benno is wondrously poignant and heartbreaking. Marc Steiner is convincing as the grandfather lusting after a 13-year-old girl, excellently portrayed by Robin J. Hogle. Donna Sherman and Chris Wise are fine as the frustrated parents set on a self-destructive course.
The second offering, "Out at Sea," directed in classic comedic style by Redfield, displays Mrozek's fine sense of the ridiculousness of life. Staged in absurd theater form this political satire centers on three shipwrecked men who cleverly manipulate the democratic process in order to elect a nominee for dinner.
The humor here lies in the ironic social humor put forth by the playwright who introduces us to strange characters suspended in time outside the mainstream.
The large castaway (Chetelat) and the small castaway (Bob Tull) engage in a battle of wits, challenging each other in the best Laurel and Hardy tradition about who should offer himself up for self-sacrifice.
The medium castaway (Norm Snyder) stumbles about in
amusing Three Stooges fashion as he drools in expectation of Tull as a succulent meal.
Chetelat is eloquent in his role but, at times, too thundering in the delivery of his political orations. Tull is an absolute delight in his hilarious interpretation of a man frantically trying to avoid the butcher's knife.
The only jarring note is Jay Pons as a drop-in postman. Obviously inexperienced with no sense of comedic timing, Pons negates the outstanding work of the other two actors when he appears on stage.
The Open Circle Theatre Company is presenting a credible production of Athol Fugard's "Master Harold . . . and the boys" in the new Mildred Dunnock Theatre at Goucher College tonight through Saturday.