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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, April 19, 2001

Stage Review
Monologues add up to a search for self

By Joseph T. Rozmiarek
Advertiser Theater Critic

 •  'Talking With'

The Actors Group

7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays; 4 p.m. Sunday matinees, through April 29

Yellow Brick Studio, 625 Keawe St.

$10; reservations recommended


Attention Houston, we've got issues.

They're not exclusively women's issues, but in "Talking With," the all-female cast delivers them with strength and authenticity.

A dozen monologues and a cast of six women fill the two acts in this play by Jane Martin. David Schaeffer directs, but the evening belongs to the individual actresses. And while separate monologues don't constitute an ensemble, their collective performance is definitely more significant than any of them is alone.

To paraphrase Mark Twain, anyone attempting to identify a unifying theme in the production will be shot through with indecision. Perhaps it's best simply to enjoy each vignette.

Two are theater pieces. In "15 Minutes," Anne Marie plays an actress preparing to go on stage. Feeling particularly fragile about being someone else's "entertainment," she fantasizes about reverse exposure — printing a program filled with audience biographies and putting them under the bright lights. Later, in "Audition," Dorothy Stamp is a possibly psychotic stage hopeful, challenging the director to give her a part or risk violence and degradation.

Several pieces deal with safety and security. In "Scraps," Annie MacLachlan is a housewife who mentally escapes to the land of Oz when life's tedium becomes unbearable. In "French Fries," Blossom Lam plays a homeless woman who spends her days in the security of a fast-food restaurant, where she claims a particular hamburger has healing powers. In "Lamps," Lam portrays an old woman preparing for death by turning off the lights in the collection of lamps that fill her loft apartment.

Death is also the theme in "Clear Glass Marbles," where Betty Burdick tells the story of a woman who measured her last days by removing marbles from a glass bowl and consciously letting go of the people she loved. Conversely, Anne Marie in "Dragons" shows us a woman knowingly giving birth to a deformed child, castigating her doctor for recommending abortion and her husband for being too long absent from the delivery room.

Three pieces search for substance and meaning. In "Rodeo," Sammie Choy takes the part of an authentic rider recently replaced by a showgirl concept. Bankers ruin things for people, she claims, when they find out how they have fun and then try to sell it back to them. In "Twirler," Stamp plays a young woman who finds God through twirling her baton, while MacLachlan confronts inner truth in "Handler" by staring into the eyes of a water moccasin.

Two pieces show women confronting life's violence in widely differing ways. In "Cul de Sac," Choy turns the tables on a would-be mugger by making him the victim, while Burdick in "Marks" explains the value in literally wearing life's scars in plain view.

"Talking With" is another in a string of powerful recent productions from the Actors Group. These are extraordinary conversations that take hard looks at life and human nature. Maybe it's not too corny to simply call their message a search for self and meaning. Looking inward, that's what we ultimately see.