'Ingenue' makes good connections

March 19, 1997|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,SUN THEATER CRITIC

Kimberley Lynne's "Socks" takes place in the uncharted territory where Shakespeare meets the late Erma Bombeck. One of four short plays by the Women's Project, "Socks" sets up a situation as simple as it is silly: During a performance of "Macbeth," scads of stray socks suddenly come flying on stage.

When a hysterically laughing on-stage theatergoer (Melissa Sharlat) asks if the socks are part of the play, the enraged actor playing Macbeth (Tony Reda) shouts at her: "What in the name of God could hundreds of single socks signify?"

Good question, and one whose answer would have gratified Bombeck, who expressed considerable dismay in her columns over the fate of socks that get lost in the laundry. In her stead, another of the play's theatergoers (Derek Letsch) proposes the black hole theory, i.e., the socks wind up in a black hole. And, lo and behold, that hole turns out to be this very production of "Macbeth."

"Socks" is the sole comic selection in this third and latest incarnation of "Beyond the Ingenue," the omnibus title adopted by the Women's Project, a year-old organization dedicated to the work of local women playwrights, directors, actors and designers. And, though "Socks" is basically a one-joke sketch, as directed by Terry Ciofalo it offers an amusing antidote to the more serious subject matter tackled in the rest of this evening at the Theatre Project.

That serious fare consists of three sentimental playlets that range from 10 to 40 minutes. All deal with the frequent Women's Project theme of relationships. The most effective and complex is Linda Chambers' layered, nonlinear "My Mother's Eyes," which examines three generations of mother-daughter relations.

Co-directed by Barbara Gehring and Binnie Ritchie Holum, the piece begins with three women (Jodie Calvert as Daughter, Lynda McClary as Mother and Nancy Hirsche as Grandmother) spotlighted on stage and delivering intersecting monologues about their often-strained ties with their mothers. In the end, though it takes a tragic illness, the women are physically as well as emotionally closer, a connection dramatically conveyed by having one character address another directly for the first time.

"The Unveiling" is Patricia Montley's excessively dire title for her sketch about a long-married couple (Jim Potter and Elizabeth Wells) whose marriage has lost its romance. Directed by Carol Mason at too slow a pace (a problem exacerbated by Wells' uncertain delivery), the piece is the thinnest, least satisfying of the quartet, and its sweet ending is little more than a Hallmark moment.

"Poo & Mo," the longest work on the bill, also has its share of Hallmark moments. In this case, the problem is structural. The piece, written by Gehring, involves two sisters in a series of scenes spread over half a century, punctuated by such rites of passage as birthdays, pregnancies, illnesses and funerals.

Still, Holum, as the younger sister, and Madeline Cheers, as her tom-boyish elder, convey a genuine bond despite the manipulative format. Under Chambers' direction, "Poo & Mo" is a successful character study, leaving no doubt that these sisters are also best friends.

One of the most interesting aspects of the Women's Project is the way its members assume multiple duties. The director of one piece is the author of another, or perhaps performs in a third. The results may vary, but watching this group develop over time, you can't help but conclude that its members are learning from and enriching each other.

'Beyond the Ingenue'

Where: Theatre Project, 45 W. Preston St.

When: 8 p.m. tonight through Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $14

Call: (410) 752-8558

Pub Date: 3/19/97

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