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Wishing and hoping: Play by Play: Desire Lines.

Playing With Desire

By James Yeara

Play by Play: Desire Lines

A collection of one-acts by eight playwrights, directed by Laura Margolis and J. Kevin Doolen

StageWorks/Hudson at Proctors 440 Upstairs, through Dec. 9

Leaving its usual late-spring production time and its usual haunts in Hudson, StageWorks/Hudson’s annual presentation of one-acts moves to the Proctors complex in Schenectady this snowy late fall. The space at 440 Upstairs is a temporary 100-seat room with padded chairs on risers, a 1-foot high platform against one wall, a white backdrop for projections, and an actor’s entrance door to the audience’s right. The minimal space demands minimal stagecraft, which usually bodes well for StageWorks/Hudson’s annual Play by Play series; it keeps the focus on the plays and the actors.

As usual, Play by Play has a theme; previous years’ collections—The Purple Plays, The Black and White Plays, The Body Plays—gave a connecting through line to the one-act plays. The current collection, Desire Lines, similarly connects this year’s eight one-acts through the definition of desire: “a strong feeling of wanting to have something or wishing for something to happen,” according to American Heritage Dictionary.

On the Beach, by Lucile Litchblau, is up first. The play focuses on an elderly couple on their annual trip to a “deserted beach in the Caribbean.” Claire (Marni Andrews) and Phil (Richard G. Rodgers) sit in their camp chairs enjoying the desertedness of the beach: “Just as I like it: no ways and no people,” Claire states, her head wrapped in a scarf. The couple talk about her cancer treatment and reminisce about their traditional visits, until a younger couple, Darren (David Toss Rodriguez) and Tiffany (Rachel Sullivan), burst onto the beach and disrupt the desertedness with their bizarre focus on healthy living and faux Facebook intimacy. On their surprise honeymoon after a secret marriage, the pregnant Tiffany—“Tiff Tiff,” as “Dar Dar” calls her in perfectly cloying tones—runs through a litany of dos and don’ts, declaring, “We will have a perfect life: no mistakes.” Dar Dar, in perfect Jar Jar Binks simplicity, states, “I want to live 800, 900 years just like in the Bible. . . . I just do what Tiff Tiff says, drink what she says, eat what she says, sit where she says.” When Tiff Tiff and Dar Dar leave for their “two-mile swim—gotta keep up the old shape,” the play nails the pseudo-beliefs of the pair when the elder couple shudder at the thought of never eating a BLT again and wondering, “Do you love me enough to call me ‘Claire Claire’?”

Undress Me Clarence, by Doug Grissom, is up next, and features a similar young couple, “She” (Sullivan) and “He” (Rodriguez), sitting in their living room as She enacts phone sex in person: “Undress me Clarence . . . undress me with your eyes.” She interrogates and makes demands of Clarence—“What kind of man fantasizes about a cream-colored brassiere?” “Do you have an erection?” “Don’t call my pubic hair ‘full and thick,’ it sounds like a milk shake”—until Clarence has She panting, and ultimately leaves her unsatisfied and unconnected. “I’m naked, naked and I’m cold. I’m cold, Clarence. I’m cold.”

Kamastutra, by Tom Coash, explores the relationship of a couple in old age, Doris (Andrews) and Harold (Rodgers). On their trip to “The Chandela Temple Complex in India,” Doris reads from a guidebook about the sexual wonders in the temple; Harold complains about missing his usual golf outing. The couple wait for the bus, and it comes before they do.

Dearly Beloved, by Donald Steele, shows a bride (Sullivan) on her wedding day, as her father (Rodgers) tries to convince her to come down and begin the ceremony with her beloved Amy. Father and daughter bemoan society’s lack of acceptance of gay marriage, until dad finally convinces his daughter, “Let’s go have ourselves a gay wedding, gay in every sense.”

The four plays that compose the second half of Desire Lines similarly explore the theme of “wanting to have something or wishing for something to happen,” starting with an allegory on American diplomacy in American Orchards, where a cash-only “Democracy through Adoption” program brings a 37-year-old Afghan orphan to a gated American community. In Bobby Hebert, a couple of good ol’ boys sitting in Saints football T-shirts and do-rags contemplate raping each other and waiting to be rescued from the rooftop they’ve been stranded on by Hurricane Katrina. In The Last Standing Protester, a lone woman stands before the gates of the White House lawn yelling “What makes you angry?” and “What holds you under despair?” as helicopters, jet planes, tanks, and gunshots sound periodically to punctuate her litany of protests topics (failing only to include pretentious theater). And in Black and White and Blue, a bisexual piano accompanist angrily confronts the grieving mother of his murdered girlfriend.

The four-person cast handles the demands of the material well, and it is good to see an Actors’ Equity union production in one of the three theaters now at Proctors.


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