Why do fools fall in love? One-act plays count the ways


Comedies: Some funny lines pop out of the sparring that goes on between the couples in `Breakfast on Other Planets' at AXIS Theatre.

January 10, 2000|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,SUN THEATER CRITIC

"Breakfast on Other Planets," a pair of one-act comedies receiving their world premiere at AXIS Theatre, explores the eternal question: Why do fools fall in love?

Directed by Brian Klaas, the production features a quartet of suitably manic performances. But though playwright Rob Handel -- a young, Vermont-based writer -- displays a flair for language and a sense of humor, his playlets are disjointed.

The second, and shorter, one-act is the more successful, largely because the ending derives from action, not exposition. Titled "Adam and Eve on a Raft," the play takes place in a diner where a lost young couple stops for breakfast during a cross-country drive.

Like professional prize fighters, the pair (Sharol Buck and Kyle Riley) enter in full fury -- or at least Buck's character does. Ranting and raving about what a mistake this trip is, and indeed, what a mistake their entire relationship is, Buck quickly exchanges her anger for lust in a pattern that appears to be the foundation of the relationship.

There are a number of funny lines ("We have our fingers on each other's buttons so much, it's like we're doing data entry," Buck says at one point) and some impressive physical sparring, but there's also a peculiar loose end -- an envelope that goes unopened, even though it contains information Buck's character was apparently once anxious to learn.

"The Sorrows of Young Iggy" is also about an odd couple, in this case, an agoraphobic former freedom fighter (the wonderfully wacky Darlene Deardorff) and a mild-mannered artist (Joseph Riley), most of whose brief adult life has been spent in a Peyton Place-like commune. Like her counterpart in "Adam and Eve on a Raft," Deardorff's character is not only consumed with hostility (most of it aimed at her co-star), she also takes the upper hand romantically.

The play is basically a series of monologues -- his augmented by pictures he draws while he speaks, and one of hers illustrated with small two-dimensional figures she moves around on a miniature stage. Although the reliance on monologues mimics the initial disconnected feelings of the characters, it is a style that proves distancing for the audience.

Show times at AXIS, 3600 Clipper Mill Road, are 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, with matinees at 2 p.m. Sundays, through Feb. 6. Tickets are $12 and $14. Call 410-243-5237.

Winans in `Civil War'

Gospel singer BeBe Winans -- the male half of the popular duo, BeBe & CeCe Winans -- has been added to the cast of the touring production of Frank Wildhorn's "The Civil War," coming to the Mechanic Theatre Feb. 8-13. A multiple Grammy Award winner, Winans co-starred in the 1996 New York production of "Your Arms Too Short to Box with God."

In "The Civil War," Winans will appear opposite the previously announced star, John Schneider, best known as Bo Duke on the TV series "The Dukes of Hazzard." The cast will also include a half dozen holdovers from the 1999 Broadway cast of "The Civil War."

Tickets to the "The Civil War" are $21.50-$66.50. For more information call 410-752-1200.

Beverley will speak

Timed to coincide with Center Stage's production of Ntozake Shange's "for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf," the Enoch Pratt Free Library will present "An Evening with Trazana Beverley," at 6: 30 p.m. Feb. 7.

Beverley, a Baltimore native, won a Tony Award for her portrayal of the Lady in Red in the original Broadway production of "for colored girls." Her talk, which will take place in the Wheeler Auditorium at the central branch of the library, 400 Cathedral St., is free and open to the public; reservations are requested. For more information call 410-396-5494.

New theater

There's a new theater in town -- the Premiere Theatre Company of Baltimore, whose first production, Neil Simon's "Rumors," opened this past weekend at Loyola College's McManus Theater.

William Finegan, managing director, explained that the non-profit company, which employs paid actors, was founded six months ago and focuses on educational outreach. Currently conducting after-school sessions at St. Francis Academy in conjunction with a Loyola program called Stages, the company hopes to expand its educational work to other inner-city schools.

Premiere's productions serve as fund-raisers for its outreach programs, said Finegan, a Loyola alum who is working on his M.B.A. at the college. The company's artistic director, Stuart Dawkins, manages the McManus Theater. "We're trying to fit in that niche somewhere between community theaters and Center Stage," Finegan said. Looking ahead, the company, which would eventually like to find a permanent home, plans to stage Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Aspects of Love" at McDonogh School this summer and "A Tuna Christmas" at Loyola next winter.

Meanwhile, "Rumors" continues at Loyola, 4501 N. Charles St., at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, with matinees at 2 p.m. Saturdays and 3 p.m. Jan. 16, through Jan. 22. Tickets are $14. Call 410-617-5206.

Readings at Center Stage

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