It used to be that “quickies” at the site of the old Capri theater were of a slightly more sordid nature. The place has come a long way…but perhaps, in a good sense, it retains something of the louche feel it had when it was a porn palace. I walked up to a crowd outside smoking and drinking – there was a cosmopolitan atmosphere which made me question whether I was still in Augusta proper or had moved to some convenient and more satisfying alternate reality. Perhaps I had.
As I walked in, I immediately felt at home. The place combined bohemiana with what appeared to be the set of Beetlejuice or one of Mr. Burton’s other twisted realities. There was an absinthe fountain at the bar, with glasses and spoons. I knew I had come to the right place. even though I stuck with gin and tonics for clarity of mind. I had to Get The Story, that was the mission…
The audience, mingling with the actors, was of all shapes and sizes and ages. Most men preferred summer wear of a fairly ordinary nature, while the women showed a decided preference for prettily-patterned sun dresses (as did some of the other men). An older women in a snazzy outfit at the bar next to me had something fall from her purse…a baggie with something wrapped in plastic inside. “Excuse me ma’am, I think you dropped something,” I said, not wanting to incriminate myself. A deep baritone voice cooed, “Oh, thank you, dear!” and retrieved it.
When we went in, I found myself in an aisle seat on the front row. Knowing the performers were to be in my lap the entire time, I hoped that the Fourth Wall was going to be thick. It was, most of the time, though there were some character entrances and exits up the aisle. The stage was minimalist black, with the obligatory black boxes set in differing configurations making up the ‘sets’.
Obliged as I am to discuss each of these eight playlets, I will for the sake of brevity do it in miniature.
Number one, “Brief Stars”, by Paul Rogers and Jennifer Craig, was directed by Nicole Swanson, with primarily Doug Holley and Chrissy Rumford. This piece had a Faulknerian feel to the dialogue between two cynical former lovers. The lines were witty, but the crowd seemed to be won by the heavier jokes and double-entendres. The actors were quite good but perhaps the polish had been brought to too self-conscious a shine.
Number two was “Wait”, written by Joanie Green and directed by Claire Hutin. Michael Ferguson, Mary Beth Westbrook, and Christopher Bowman were the players. A mock-courtroom drama taking place in a church, this number brought little that was new to me, but was well-done nevertheless. The players acquitted themselves wonderfully, and I appreciated the inside musical jokes.
The next piece, a truly successful comedic number, was “Diversions”, written and directed by Jezibell Anat. She acted in it also, joined by Robert Seawell IV. The glittering one-liners in this piece brought down the house. A true gem, this piece paired post-modern Gomez and Morticia Addams surrogates in the throes of a difficult divorce. Here they were actually earning for themselves a very good if weird lifestyle, though their manifold predilections with the macabre seemed only exacerbated. The couple went through hilarious conversation as they described their sinister “diversions” and then blundered into the truth that the men each had found as a soul mate were…no, I won’t be a spoiler here. It’s too good.
“Lobster Man”, written by Jonathan Cooke and directed by the ensemble, took place in a post-Apocalyptic world where only a pair of lovers remained. The two actors were most convincing, but the show was stolen by the mysterious and silent Lobster Man, who supposedly came to rescue the girl, though the consequences were ultimately…well, I won’t say.
Intermission found me ready for a cigarette and a look at the inside of another gin-and-tonic glass. The players were not tardy, though, and we hustled back in to take our places.
The Second Act opened with the clear emotional highlight of the evening, “The Last Testament of Johannes Junius”, with Joseph Zuchowski playing a part he had adapted himself from a testament surviving from the European witchcraft trials. He was utterly convincing in his character. The piece, though a monologue, was absolutely electric. The performance was as intense and gut-wrenching as the torture the poor man descibed.
“Speedy” written and directed by Ed McCoy, was acted by Emily Hammond, Jennifer Craig, and Doug Holley. It brought us a Three’s Company situation that soon became WAY too real for the male character as his wish-fulfillment brought him only, shall we say, a quick release. At that point, he was taunted by his roommates with suggestions about his grandfather’s priapic pharmaceuticals and some nasty novelties. The whole piece came to a glorious climax, which is perhaps more than one can say for the characters. The buzz about this piece was intense – it was a real crowd-pleaser.
The most intriguing piece of the night for me was next. “Amid Canyons and Mesas”, written by Rick Davis and directed by Claire Hutin, featured truly superb performances by Tom Colechin and Rhianna Martin, with vocal assistance from Claire Hutin and Amy Patton. In this piece the nature and existence of memory came into question, as did the entire notion of reality. Sleep-states, dream states, and waking states became blurred, as did the staged, the real, the past, the future, and the present. This was truly well-done in all aspects. I wish I could have heard the Gary Jules recording of “Mad World” instead of the solo vocalist, but that’s rather petty.
The Big Finish was next, a big ensemble piece, “Hello Dispatch”, written and directed by Joseph Zuchowski. This was a big comic farce. In a world with rogue vampires a regular occurrence, a licensed vampire dispatcher showed up at the wrong funeral to stake the wrong stiff at the wrong time. The piece had a lovely slapstick quality which played well as the last production, and all characters on stage played their comic parts with abandon and ease.
Whew! I walked out with my brain quite full, and I’ve tried to dump my memory as fully and accurately as possible for these pages. In all, the evening was like eating a series of appetizers, each of which had the preparation and presentation of an entreé. I walked away from the old building feeling grateful and much richer by the experience. I doubt that feeling was bequeathed by the former occupants, but who knows?