The message washes gently over an audience, rather than drowning it in a tidal wave of "shoulds" and "should nots."
The Women's Theatre Guild, a self-supporting theater collective from the Harrisburg, York, and Chambersburg, Pa., area, offered the one-act plays, "If We Should Meet Again" and "The Phase," Sunday evening at the Forum of Western Maryland College's Decker Center.
This was theater, warm and gentle and real. Pennsylvania playwright Ro Robusto's situations are part of everyday life, her characters are people we know and understand.
These plays are concerned with humanism and humanity. They demand, as did Arthur Miller in "Death ofSalesman," that attention be paid to their characters.
The Women's Theatre Guild supports gay and feminist issues.
The group's visit was sponsored by the local Gay and Lesbian Resource Center as part of National Coming Out Week.
"If We Should Meet Again" is a half-hour monologue with brief supporting dialogue.
It is about closing doors, eyes and minds to others.
Deb Drury, as the central character, captured the sadness of past losses as well as the strong immediate conviction that we must learn from mistakes and omissions.
The monologue is delivered by an old woman, reminiscing about an incident40 years earlier. At the conclusion of the piece, she says, "I salute you who keep nothing bottled up."
"The Phase" is a fully developed play with well-conceived and clearly delineated characters.
It takes place in a restaurant, a symbol of nourishment, in which two women work at coming to terms with their relationship. In doing so, they cover and uncover their pasts, their present and reactions of parents and those around them.
In another part of the piece we find a conventional and conservative mother and her two daughters. There are so many issues packed into this triangle and the mother is so patently stereotyped that this part of the play is weakened. But it is not damaged: The issues are clear and the people are important.
The title alludes to the mother's belief that one of her daughters is only going through a phase and will grow out of it as easily as she did many others.
The daughter suggests that when she dies at the age of 90, her epitaph will read, "Just a phase."
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, feminist issues served as an impetus for playwrights and theater companies. Often, the performances were angry, strident and propagandistic.
They were not unlike the politically active theater of the 1930s, which was openly confrontational and strongly didactic.
Happily, Robusto and the Theatre Guild opt for a more reasoned and less jarring approach.
The actors often exhibit greater commitment than craft and would benefit from professional training. Notwithstanding, the performances are engaging and satisfying.
With more attention by director Deb Drury to pacing, they would be highly evocative and strongly believable.
This company deserves support, encouragement and exposure.