Powered by Google
New This Week
8 days
- - - - - - - - - - - -
Hot links
News + Features
- - - - - - - - - - - -
Adult Personals
- - - - - - - - - - - -
Work for us

Variety pack
Outbursts 2 hits and misses

Outbursts 2!, an evening of one-acts by Elemental Theatre (through July 27), certainly can’t be faulted for a lack of variety. The five short plays range from a delightful fantasy to a Russian romantic comedy and a Spielbergian sci-fi romp that overstay their welcome and then on to a surreal feminist power fantasy and a rarely seen musical myth by Sam Shepard.

Let’s take that last one first. Shepard initially staged The Sad Lament of Pecos Bill on the Eve of Killing His Wife in 1983 as a musical relaxation — its violent reminder not withstanding — after his back-to-back masterpieces Fool for Love and True West. His exploration of the myth of the West and the Independent American Man started with the first play he ever wrote, the 1964 one-act Cowboy. Music has always been important to the playwright, who has performed with rock bands and structured several short works like jazz riffs.

The Sad Lament, directed by Jen Swain, could be called a mini-rock opera. In tall-tale style, we are filled in on Pecos (David Rabinow), told that his first teething ring was a Bowie knife, his first horse was a mountain lion, and that he used a rattlesnake for a whip. Pecos has a hankerin’ for becoming a legend, sure enough. But his spunky wife, Slue-foot Sue (Kelly Seigh), has a problem on their wedding day. Though she’s spunky enough to ride a giant catfish like a horse, she can’t solve the problem of being thrown so high by a bucking bronco that she keeps bouncing back and forth against the moon. A take-charge guy, Pecos shoots her to keep her from starving to death. Shepard has always been easy on guys for their violent impulses, when he’s not being hard on them. Sue brightly forgives him: "Be kind on yourself/You won’t last forever/And the moon could care less what you do."

As much fun as that show-capper is, the outrageous highlight of the evening is Attack of the Fifty-Foot Woman, written by Rabinow and directed by Becca Wolff. Incredible Hulk, move over. Jen Swain is Sondra, a young woman empowered by rage. In a cavern deep beneath the earth near Washington, DC, our chained heroine tells us her tale. Her growth spurts began when returns from the 2004 presidential election started coming in. "Look at all that red," she calmly observes to boyfriend Walter (Brian Platt), internalizing her true feelings, which begin emerging in the form of splitting clothing.

The image of a five-story-tall feminist held captive by the government is delicious. Swain plays her as whimsically vengeful before she is captured, stomping Starbucks and Home Depots with hand-rubbing glee instead of like Godzilla with PMS. The breaking point for Sondra — and the bursting point for her clothing — is a TV report that 10 state referendums turned down same-sex civil unions. "I can’t believe I’m the only woman who feels like this, Walter," she remarks at one point. Attention, Detroit: scratch hybrid and hydrogen — harness the power of pissed-off women and energy independence is ours.

The opening playlet is Paul L. Coffey’s Shanty, directed by Melissa Rabinow. The evening begins and ends hilariously. Kelly Seigh is Maggie, a woman who falls hopelessly in love with . . . . Well, all you have to know is that while she was walking the beach with suicidal intention, she did not in fact fall in love with, as she thought, a sailor in white with a charming English accent. Indeed, Seigh’s enthusiastic good time could give healthy romantic fantasy a bad name.

That’s three for five, a respectable proportion of successes. Unfortunately, while the remaining short plays are acted well, a roster of Oscar winners couldn’t save them. In Anton Chekhov’s The Proposal, human foibles may prompt universal identification, but a little empathy goes a long way. Landowner Chubukov (Paul Scharf) and his spinster daughter Natasha (Tray Gearing) are eager to accept a marriage proposal by feeble but wealthy neighbor Lomov (Andrew Morissette), but none of them can hold their tongue when the prospect of a good argument crops up. Enough, already. Too many variations on a tedious theme.

As for The Foghorn, written by science fiction superstar Ray Bradbury, even as a short-story it wasn’t short. Chris Lussier does very well with the Scots accent as an eccentric lighthouse keeper, and Josh Short is fine as the young friend who comes to talk sense into him. But every sentence from the loquacious old man becomes a rambling, purple paragraph.

Three knee-slappers and two groaners. Outbursts 2! comes up with a better proportion than we get in real life.


Issue Date: July 15 - 21, 2005
Back to the Theater table of contents

home | feedback | masthead | about the phoenix | find the phoenix | advertising info | privacy policy | work for us

 © 2000 - 2007 Phoenix Media Communications Group