Sunday, November 28, 2004

Trip to the Bountiful (Ensemble Theatre)


‘THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL’ gets an acceptable voyage at Ensemble

It is fitting that at this time of year Ensemble Theatre chose to reprise one of its most memorable shows, ‘THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL.’ The play contains a wish for peace, in this case inner peace, and a desire to travel to where the happy memories of life took place.

The play by Horton Foote originally was an hour-long TV drama with Lillian Gish in 1953. Foote expanded it for Gish and it had a Broadway opening that same year. It was transformed into a film in 1985. Foote is also the author of the scripts for ‘TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD,’ ‘TENDER MERCIES.’

The story concerns Carrie Watts who, in the 1940’s is living in the twilight of her life, trapped in a small Houston, Texas apartment with a controlling, self centered daughter-in-law and a hen-pecked son. Her fondest wish is to revisit Bountiful, the small Texas town of her youth which she still refers to as "home." Mrs. Watts imagines that if she can get away and return to her old home in the town of Bountiful, she is sure to regain her strength, dignity and peace of mind.

After numerous attempts she finally gets on a bus for “home.” With the help of the local sheriff, she eventually fulfills her dream, but learns that the friends of her youth have all died or scattered, and her home is no longer the spacious mansion of her memories, but a crumbling wreck. But she has the supreme satisfaction of plunging her hands into the earth, which leaves her with a sense of that strength and dignity which will give her the courage to survive. When her son and daughter-in-law appear on the scene to take her back to Houston, she consents to return quietly, secure in the knowledge that the remainder of her existence will be enriched as a result of her last contact with Bountiful.

Sound a little too hokey and contrived, too pat to believe? It is, but that’s part of what this time of year is all about. Visions of sugar plums dancing, reindeer flying, a small vial of oil burning brightly for eight days instead of the prescribed single day are what make for “good will for all.”

The role of Carrie Watts is a dream role. Besides Lillian Gish, it has been played by the likes of Geraldine Paige. On the local scene, Dorothy Silver, the crowned Queen of Cleveland drama, was compelling in the Ensemble Theatre’s previous production of the show. Their present production also features a strong performance by Bernice Bolek, a Scene Magazine winner of “Best Actress of the Year” for her performance in Ensemble’s ‘THREE TALL WOMEN.’ Bolek consistently has control over the role. She is properly tender and headstrong, humorous and dramatic.

Mark Cipra is totally engaging as the controlled and conflicted Ludie. As one audience member mumbled, “I’d like to knock Ludie on the head and knock some sense into him.” No finer compliment could be given an actor.

Meg Kelly Schroeder is inconsistent as Jessie Mae. We need to really detest this self-centered woman from the first word out of her mouth. Unfortunately, at times she sparkles, at other times she is emotionally dead. Celeste Costentino is fine as Thelma, a woman who helps Mrs. Watts during her travels. The rest of the cast stays on the surface.

Stephen Vasse-Hansell’s fragmentary set designs would not have been a problem if they were well executed, but they are not. The sets were poorly built, unbelievable, and caused awkward pauses as the sets are changed. On the other hand, Corby Grubb’s sound design was excellent. Also on the positive side, the Texas drawls were consistent throughout the production.

Director Lucia Columbi has paced the show much too slowly, extending the playing time at least fifteen minutes longer than it should be. Also, there were some strange technical decisions. Why were obviously fake cigarettes used? If the actors wouldn’t smoke, why fake it? There would have been nothing lost as smoking was not an integral part of any character’s role. And why was no liquid poured in the drinking glasses or coffee cups?

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: ‘THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL’ is a soap-opera script which, when well done, can evoke an emotional tug and some thought provoking reactions. In spite of fine performances by Bernice Bolek and Mark Cipra, the Ensemble production is acceptable, not as compelling as it could have been.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

The Christmas Carol Rag (Kalliope)


Kalliope’s ‘THE CHRISTMAS CAROL RAG’ a lesser holiday gift


‘Tis the season to be jolly. Well, that may be true for most of us, but this is a tough time of year for theatrical producers. There just aren’t enough good holiday shows. Yes, there’s the old chestnut, ‘A CHRISTMAS CAROL’ but how many times can a theatre do that script and still grab audiences? Okay, Great Lakes Theatre Festival has been doing the show for a million years (or so it seems) and keeps pulling in the crowds, but most theatres aren’t that lucky and don’t want to duplicate the same thing. So, the search for a viable holiday show becomes a major headache for theatres.

In this search, Kalliope Stage, Cleveland’s only venue dedicated to musical theatre, stumbled upon ‘THE CHRISTMAS CAROL RAG.’ The show comes with good credentials. It received the 2002-2003 Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Musical, given by the Washington, DC theatre critics. Of course this was for the Signature Theatre’s staging by the their brilliant Artistic Director Eric Schaeffer. Eric (yes, I can call him by his first name, having volunteered at the theatre while I was spending an extended sabbatical in the DC area), in his search for a holiday show probably said, "We can dig up the old Scrooge chestnut, cast a female lead, put in some turn-of-the-century ragtime tunes, set it in New York and we'll have a blast." And, in Shaeffer’s hands and ingenious mind, it worked well. In lesser hands, well....

Playwright Norman Allen has adopted Dicken’s ‘CHRISTMAS CAROL’ by shifting the emphasis from a male Scrooge to a female. Evelyn Scrooge is a bitter older woman. As has happened in the umpteen staged editions,14 film versions and 27 TV movies about the male version of the character, the ghosts that come to visit and make this female version of the originator of the phrase “bah-humbug” see the evilness of her deeds. In this edition, we understand why she is so bitter. A meager upbringing, the death of her beloved sister and a failed love affair all have given her a nasty disposition. But, true to the spirit of the season, all comes out well in the end.

That is, all comes out well for the characters. As for the audience who attend the Kalliope Stage version, I’m not so sure.

Part of the problem with the production is that the music doesn’t always fit into the story line. For those of us who like plays to have a beginning, middle and end in which all the parts fit together, the format is a little unnerving.

Then there are the production qualities. The Kalliope Stage is postage stamp small. This is an advantage in such shows as their superlative ‘THE SUMMER OF ‘42,’ but is problematic when director Paul Gurgol tries to shove 19 performers onto the small platforms. Often the sight is that of a mob scene with people dodging around each other.

Gurgol shows little of his usual directing genius in this show. For example, he had Mrs. Scrooge (Adina Bloom) sing all three of her major songs in exactly the same spot on stage, looking exactly the same way, all with no gestures and controlled facial expressions. Bloom is noted for her dynamic vocal sounds and overblown facial gyrations. She is best when she does her Ethel Merman thing. Restricting her physically while singing takes away some of her power. The songs sounded good, but could have been so much more if she hadn’t been physically hand- cuffed.

The vocal elements of the show were generally fine, but much of the acting was overdone and unbelievable. Yes, the tale is a fable, but we still must believe the characters are real.

Highlights of the show include: “Where Did Robinson Crusoe Go?” (I told you the songs don’t fit into the story line), was well executed. This is a vaudeville act with tap dancing by Gurgol. “Go Tell It on the Mountain” (can you believe a Dickens-based show with that spiritual) rocked the house. On the other hand, “If I Were On The Stage” was over the top with affected acting and a mockingly bad Yiddish accent by one of the characters was embarrassing. Bottom line--if you can’t do an accent well, don’t use one!

Brad Wyner’s piano accompaniment was top notch as were performances by Bloom, Chris Pohl, Elizabeth Rubino and Marni Task.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Maybe in the hands of Eric Schaeffer at DC’s Signature Theatre ‘THE CHRISTMAS CAROL RAG’ was an award winner. The same can’t be said for KALLIOPE STAGE’s version. The show isn’t terrible, but it sure isn’t the best gift for the holiday season.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Highway Ulysses (Dobama)


Dobama present multi-award winning 'HIGHWAY ULYSSES'

‘Highway Ulysses,’ now being presented in its midwest premiere at Dobama Theatre, began as a workshop at ART (The American Repertory Theatre) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It tells the story of Ulysses, a Vietnam war veteran who receives an urgent call in the middle of the night which causes him to embark on a journey to find his son. A journey, much like the that of the mythological Ulysses, in which he must come in contact with and conquer creatures, fears and beliefs. On his way, he gets waylaid by a kaleidoscope of characters including a waitress at a truck stop, a one-eyed librarian, and a woman in a tattoo parlor. These bizarre characters embrace Ulysses, forcing him to confront his violent past and propelling him on to accomplishing his task.

Rinde Eckert, who authored the play, is not unique in his use of the traveler motif. The odyssey concept was the model for Mark Twain's ‘HUCKLEBERRY FINN,’ Jack Kerouac's ‘ON THE ROAD,’ as well as Homer's ‘ODYSSEY.’

‘HIGHWAY ULYSSES’ started out as a solo piece that Eckert, who is a writer and a performer as well as a composer, wrote for himself. The work has been transformed into a multi-character construction.

Eckert states of the piece, “When I looked at ‘THE ODYSSEY,’ I started asking questions about the relationship between a returning war hero and the operations of a state. I understand the search for redemption in the original play, though I'm skeptical of the degree to which Odysseus is redeemed, given his opacity and lack of self-criticism. He never reproaches himself, though his failures are legion.”

As for the musical aspects, the sound is both atonal and archaic-sounding, incorporating chanting as well as the sung and spoken word, and is not always pleasing to the ear.

The play is a difficult piece to breath life into. It is basically a monochromatic with little variance of texture in either the music or the words. With this said, Dobama gives the play a creditable if uninspired production. Sonya Robbins has tried to make the journey one of clarity, but that is hard to do as much of the meaning is implied, not readily obvious. In spite of the fact that most of the cast are actors, not necessarily singers, the sound is acceptable because this is not music that needs well trained singers. The points to be made are in the words, not in their musical sound.

Paul Floriano is properly tortured as Ulysses. He develops a consistent character who acts from emotions, from flashbacks, rather than rational clarity. Meg O’Halloran’s portrayal as the son lacked idea development. Her quiet singing and speaking is difficult to hear. Juliette Regnier is excellent as the waitress, siren and wife. The rest of the ensemble cast--Brittany Hicks, Kimberly Koljat, George Roth, Joe Milan, Ray McNeice and Alison Hernan--perform effectively.

Musical director Josh Senick has assembled a fine group of musicians who play the difficult music well.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: In spite of the play being selected as the Best play of 2003 by the Boston Globe and winning the Norton Award for Best New Play in Boston ‘HIGHWAY ULYSSES’ is definitely not a show for everyone. The ninety-minute production is performed without an intermission, but still makes a long sit as there is not a great deal of action and a there are a lot of words.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Holiday Dreams (Carousel Dinner Theatre)


FEATURED ACTS IN ‘HOLIDAY DREAMS’ AT CAROUSEL ARE EXCELLENT

This is the time of year when theatres seek ways to use the holiday season to entertain audiences. Some decide to take the serious route and present the likes of ‘A CHRISTMAS CAROL’ (Great Lakes Theatre Festival) while others go the ‘PLAID TIDINGS’ route (The Cleveland Play House). Still others decide that they should present a series of acts, surrounded by holiday sounds and songs. The later decision was made by the producers of the Carousel Dinner Theatre in Akron.

To accomplish their goal the theatre’s producers decided, according to one of their public relations team, to turn to Las Vegas, the home of the very best in review-type entertainment. Their mission was to provide stellar specialty acts and embed these into a holiday sing-and-dance-along. Therefore, ‘HOLIDAY DREAMS, AN INTERNATIONAL HOLIDAY SHOW,’ was created especially for Carousel by Q Productions Las Vegas.

On the positive side, Q Productions did find some excellent specialty acts. Romano Frediani is an eighth generation juggler. Handsome, charming and talented the young man mesmerized the audience with his juggling golden boxes and playing the drums with balls while juggling the spheres. He convulsed the audience by making himself the cog-pin in a “ring the juggler” routine in which members of the audience were asked to frisbee-toss silver rings over Frediani’s head. He put life and limb at stake as he dove, slid and cartwheeled across the stage to get neck-cuffed by the errant throws. The more the tossers missed, the more hysterical the proceedings became.

Danny D’Oscar, a mass of muscles, received much applause for his balancing and flying routines. The Cuban defector used apparatus in the first act to perform balancing acts of super strength. His second act actions consisted of an impressive display of flying and swinging high above the heads of the audience while twisting and turning on long red sheets of material.

The Los Huincas Gauchos, a trio of Argentineans, has been awarded the title, “Best Specialty Act in Las Vegas.” Their drum routines and synchronized dances with the use of dangerous weapons, delighted. Even their use of audience members, which in other venues is often both awkward and embarrassing, was entertaining.

Unfortunately, the rest of the show varied from amateurish to just plain awful. This was best exemplified when about half way through the show a cast member asked the audience, “Are you having a good time?” and was answered by a very weak number of positive responses. Even when he kidded the audience about their lack of enthusiastic response, they didn’t perk up much.

Michael Chambers’ choreography was generally uninventive and often poorly executed. The supposed “Las Vegas’s best” performers proved adequate at best. Statuesque Betsy Allen, who has headlined shows for the Luxor and the Las Vegas Hilton hotels has a pleasant voice. Jeff Hutson, the other featured singer, was inconsistent in his renditions and displayed little stage presence. Both the male and female dancing and singing choruses showed little depth of talent. Their vocal blends were often off and their dance timings left much to be desired. There are many local talents who far exceed these supposed pros. The “original music” was repetitious and lacked creativity. How much variety can there be in hearing the same rock and roll beat applied over and over to versions of Christmas carols?.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: The featured acts of Carousel Dinner Theatre’s ‘HOLIDAY DREAMS’ are excellent and highly entertaining. If you can put up with the dancing and singing, and place all your attention on Romano Frediani, Danny D’Oscar and Los Huincas Gauchos, you’ll have a fine time.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Give 'Em Hell Harry (Actors' Summit)


Harry Truman appears at Actors' Summit

It only takes a few minutes into ‘GIVE ‘EM HELL HARRY,’ now on stage at Actors’ Summit Theatre, for the viewer to forget that it’s Wayne Turney speaking to us and not the 33rd President of the United States.

Every wonder where the phrase, “Give ‘em Hell, Harry” originated? Legend tells us that during a speech by Truman attacking the Republicans during the 1948 Presidential election campaign a supporter yelled out, "Give 'em Hell, Harry!". Truman replied, "I don't give them Hell. I just tell the truth about them and they think it's Hell." Subsequently, "Give 'em Hell, Harry!" became a lifetime slogan for Truman supporters.

‘GIVE 'EM HELL HARRY’ was written by Samuel Gallu. It allows us to share in many of Truman's biographical high points: his diplomatic and emotional handling of the Korean War; deciding to drop the atomic bomb; and managing less-than-kind critics, including one who criticized his daughter’s musical debut. We are treated to a walk down memory lane as he relives his moments with the "Dizzy D's," an army group he whipped into action during World War II, as a proud builder of roads who defied political pressure to give contracts to those who tried to gain favors by political connections (think Halliburton circa 2004), when he stands courageously toe-to-toe against the Ku Klux Klan and when he fires General Douglas MacArthur for insubordination.

We also witness Truman mowing the lawn, chatting with reporters and making conversation with people on the street. We even see a beaming Truman, after he had won re-election, as he holds up the famous edition of The Chicago Tribune whose headline declared, "Dewey Defeats Truman."

The key component in bringing all of this to life is the man who plays the role of Truman. And Turney is a wonderful choice. He so skillfully wraps himself in the role that Truman’s words and ideas are all the audience experiences. This is a wonderful history lesson and an examination of the little man from Missouri who “shot from the lip” and took personal responsibility for his actions. As the sign on his desk states, “The buck stops here.” Truman put himself on the line for what he believed in, not for what was necessary to win an election. He was not a man who allowed someone else to plot his campaigns. He was not a man who backed down from his beliefs in a liberal philosophy which included equal rights for all. This is the man that Turney so compellingly captures that he makes the entire experience a personal triumph.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Perhaps the idea of viewing a one-man show about the life and times of President Harry S. Truman doesn't sound terribly compelling. Well, in the capable hands of Turney it becomes a captivating experience. As the late-President might have said, “This is one hell of a show.”

Enchanted April (Cleveland Play House)



Enchanting 'ENCHANTED APRIL' at the Cleveland Play House

In ‘ENCHANTED April,’ the romantic comedy by Matthew Barber, four mismatched but equally unhappy English women decide to vacation together in Italy. During their sojourn in the Mediterranean spring, they rediscover laughter and romance, and learn new truths about themselves.

Barber adapted the play from the best-selling novel of the same title by Elizabeth von Arnim (1866 –1941). This play version was preceded by a 1925 Broadway production which lasted but 32 performances. Movie audiences are probably familiar with the story from the popular 1992 film version which starred Joan Plowright, Miranda Richardson, Alfred Molina, Josie Lawrence and Polly Walker.

Like the novel and the film, the play with its predictable happy ending, is easy to write off as a trite woman's story. However, von Arnim, besides focusing on the confusion of the women in the kirche-k├╝sche-kinder society (church, kitchen, children) also manages to examine some broader unsettled feelings, feelings which are reflected by World War I, the expected role of women, and the societal attitudes of the time. The combination of humor blended with sadness and confusion explains the story's appeal.

The CPH production's chief pleasures derive from the wonderful performances of the women in the cast.

Blake Lindsley and Roxanna Hope, portraying two London housewives desperately in need of a little enchantment to offset their joyless daily lives with husbands who have proved disappointing, perfectly capture their characters. Lindsley as Lotty, a woman who has been described by her husband as “a hummingbird who never alights,” is a bundle of determination and joy. We see her blossom before our eyes as she finds beauty and delight in life. She truly shows us what happens “to those who appreciate wisteria and sunshine” and find it. Arnott, as Rose, the wife of a philandering husband and has lost a child, finds herself turning inward to escape reality. Her performance allows the audience to experience the character’s recapturing joy as she finds herself in the glow of the Italian sunshine. These are two fine, fine performances.

Monette Magrath as the socialite Caroline, is compelling as she transforms from a cold oft-hurt woman who has attracted men by her wealth and beauty, but has not found emotionally satisfying love, into a real and feeling person. Jill Tanner, as the up-tight, rule-oriented Mrs. Clayton Graves, a London matron, who refuses to let life intrude on the past she prefers, is perfectly cast. Her ramrod straight posture, pronunciation, and use of a walking stick make her a potential villain. But, as expected in stories such as this, Tanner, true to the character, convincingly changes her physical mannerisms and presence as the written character changes. Jayne Taini is absolutely perfect as the scene- stealing expressive and exasperated Italian housekeeper.

Curtis Billings as Antony, the artist and owner of the villa, is the only male who completely captures his character. He develops a person who is both charming and endearing. On the other hand, John Hines as Lotty’s solicitor husband Mellersh, tries too hard to create his up-tight role. His posturing and over-articulation create a caricature rather than a believable character. The same has to be said for Sean Haberle who fails to develop a believable being as Rose’s husband.

Director Michael Wilson has nicely combined the elements to give CPH a visually and theatrical quality production.

Scenic designer Tony Straiges deserves cudos for his wonderful visual concepts. The first act is staged in a series of stilted fragmented settings. These perfectly fit the mood of the characters. As with the story, the second act setting blossoms forth with a warm, enchanting exterior of a Tuscan castle, with brightly painted walls and masses of flowers. Straiges has created a place where psychological change can easily take place. Alejo Vietti's costumes work perfectly in aiding the transition from darkness to light, from restrained to unrestrained feelings. Rui Rita’s lighting help us to visualize the right moods.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: I defy anyone who sees ‘ENCHANTED APRIL’ at the Cleveland Play House not to want to make immediate plans to go to Italy and rent a Tuscan villa. The Cleveland Play House is on a roll. This is their third outstanding production of the season.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Tone Cluster/Whirlgig (convergence-continuum)


Convergence-continuum ends season with two one-acts

Tone Clusters are musical notes which are more tightly grouped than those normally found in chords. They are built by starting with a chord in its normal state and then applying non-chordal tones which produce the eventual cluster. This process enables the musical writer to retain the original chord function. It is this musical device that gives both the title and writing style to Joyce Carol Oates play, ‘TONE CLUSTER.’

First produced in 1989 at the Actors Theatre of Louisville, the unnerving drama centers on a father and mother enduring an unnerving, often absurd interview with a voice that pries into a family tragedy.

To explore the themes of violence and responsibility, the play combines realistic elements with stark and surreal imagery. The production makes use of film, projected slides, and live audio and video along with two actors who sit on stage facing the audience throughout the production. The play’s structure includes flashbacks, flash forwards, digressions, and interruptions in the normal flow of organized thought.

Oates, who is an author of film scripts (e.g., ‘WE WERE THE MULVANEYS ‘ and ‘BLONDE’) and novels, as well as plays, explains her theatrical style by stating, “In my writing for the theater I always have in mind, as an undercurrent shaping and guiding the surface action, the ancient structure of drama as sacrificial rite.” This is evident in ‘TONE CLUSTERS.’ The audience is never allowed to divorce themselves from the action. Excessive theatricalism doesn’t give the viewer the luxury of just sitting back and watching. One jarring effect after another, one startling revelation after another invades the theatre.

The convergence-continuum production, under the direction of Douglas H. Snyder, accomplishes Oates intentions.

Times Tributes multi-award winner Lucy Bredeson-Smith gives yet another outstanding performance. She completely conveys the anguish, angst, frustration, shame, confusion and guilt of the mother trying to defend her son from being convicted for committing a horrendous act of raping and killing a neighborhood teenager. Her consistent nervous mannerisms, deer-in-the-headlights stare and twitching body are the embodiment of an actress who has transformed herself into a character she completely understands. Clyde Simon is her anguished equal. He rages, rants, and tries to control his conflicted outrage with conviction. On the other hand, Brian Breth doesn’t clearly establish a tone as the heard but not seen interviewer. Is he accusing, is he neutral, does he have an agenda for the interview? None of this is made clear. In addition, his stumbles during the interview were distracting.

Several audience members complained about the loud blaring audio. Yes, the play needs to be jarring, but not so overly loud that people had to sit with their hands over their ears. Another question arose concerning why the pictures being seen and the vocals didn’t match. In many cases this was necessary to illustrate that what was being said didn’t parallel to what was being seen, thus creating a conflict in reality. However, at times, references to the blue painted house and the muscular physicality of the son, needed to be real to create the idea that some of what was being said was, in truth, factual.

The second of the one acts on the convergence-continuum program is Mac Wellman’s ‘WHIRLIGIG.’

Wellman is a favorite of Clyde Simon, the theatre’s Artistic Director. As he says in the program, “A bunch of us in the convergence-continuum company like his stuff.” He loves Wellman’s “wild use of words, his conjuring up of unconventional characters and strange world in which the weird appears familiar and the familiar seems bizarre.”

To be honest, I, on the other hand, find Wellman to be tedious, intentionally abstract, using endless words to create confusion in the mind of the audience. Each time I have gone to see any of the four Wellman plays that the theatre has produced I hope to see what Simon views in the plays. After enduring ‘WHIRLIGIG’ I still don’t see eye-to eye with Simon.

With that said, a whirligig is a child's toy that whirls or spins, as a pinwheel. The play ‘WHIRLIGIG, shares many qualities of the child’s toy. The rendering is full of energy and motion, but like its namesake, is not quite sure of its direction. Because of this it spins out of control, thus coming out short of achieving the full effect on its audience.

The setting is an anonymous bus station somewhere in America. GIRL is a young rebellious woman with streaked green hair and the overwhelming desire to escape her present existence. She waits, with two suitcases, for a bus headed anywhere. She shares her one desire to become one of the Mongolian Huns, who "obeyed no laws and had no rules." XUTHUS, a silver-painted man appears. He explains that his original planet, the sand world of Plinth, was blown up in a nuclear accident. He has arrived on Earth to figure out what it is that makes humans happy. A BUS MAN appears and tells them that the vehicle will not be coming. SISTER appears and is “killed” by an oath uttered by GIRL. The same SISTER appears again, is killed and she is replaced by yet another who meets the same fate. (Honestly, I’m not making this up.) The climax is supposed to allows us to realize Wellman’s supposed message, “the surface of things is obscure.”

As one critic, with whom I totally agree, wrote, “Is this a play about human happiness? Is it attempting to express contempt for a particular kind of human existence, steeped in traditional values and safe attitudes? The play is obviously searching for an escape from rules and laws, but in doing so, it leaves its audience without a path to follow. Just when we think we have grasped the integral qualities of the characters and where they are going, we are dismayed to find that the action completely shifts and we have not understood anything at all.”

Simon, as almost everything he directs, does a very competent job. The performances are quite fine as are the production qualities.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENTS: ‘TONE CLUSTERS’ is an interesting play that gets a thought provoking production. As for “WHIRLIGIG,’ if you like Wellman’s writing, you’ll like this play. If not, leave after the first act. You’ll get your money’s worth just having seen the performances in ‘TONE CLUSTERS.’