She must have been a fabulous lip-reader and an even better reader of people, as her plays are wise, subtle, and full of psychological insight.
|Mace and Deaver in The King of Spain's Daughter|
Photo: Richard Termine
The first, Strange Birth, is a brief slice of life that takes place in the hallway of a rooming house. As Sara, the maid, is cleaning the floor, each of the tenants comes down to see if they have received mail. In a remarkably short period of time, we learn about Mrs. Taylor's relief that her son is coming home, Mr. Bassett's heartbreak, and Mrs. Stims's bitterness, and while their appearances are brief, we feel we know them. Then Bill, the mailman, arrives and quietly changes Sara's life.
The next piece, In the Cellar of My Friend, is the odd story of a young woman who finds her dreams dashed in a way that relies too much on an awkward theatrical device. Nevertheless, the play does an excellent job of depicting her heartbreak and how she deals with.
|Redmond and Adair in Strange Birth Photo: Richard Termine|
And last, The King of Spain's Daughter presents us with a young woman full of imagination and energy whose life offers her only limits and dead ends. Her father is abusive, and the man who wants to marry her is dull. The play occurs on a construction site with a "Road Closed" sign that might as well be labeling her future.
In his director's note in the program, Bank writes, "putting together an evening of one act plays is a tricky balancing act. How many actors will play how many parts? Will the casting serve all of the plays? Can the design serve all of the plays adequately? How long will scene changes take, how much crew will be needed? What order will be best? And, of course, do the plays tie together, do they relate to each other? Do they work together to tell a story, make a satisfying evening? And--most important, will the evening serve our author?"
The Suitcase Under the Bed goes a long way in answering Bank's questions. Out of 22 roles, there was really only one problem, which is that the siblings in Holiday House seem to span an unrealistic age range. But it's a small flaw. Overall, the cast is excellent, and I imagine they must have a blast playing all their roles, particularly Sarah Nicole Deaver, who gets to play three distinctly different and fascinating women and does so beautifully. Also outstanding is Cynthia Mace, who takes four relatively small parts and makes them distinct and textured and real. But, truly, the whole cast shines; the others are Ellen Adair, Gina Costigan, Aidan Redmond, Colin Ryan, and A.J. Shively.
Vicki R. Davis's set works well in all four plays, and only one scene change is longish. Andrea Varga's costumes and Zach Blane's lighting are also effective, and Jane Shaw's sound and original music opens up the plays by giving us a sense of the world outside. The wigs are the best I've seen at a show at The Mint; while they were obviously wigs, they served the characters appropriately and never pulled focus.
And Bank's direction pulled everything together expertly, giving us a wonderful sense of Deevy's great skill and compassion and a first-class evening in the theatre.
(press ticket; 5th row)