KPBS AIRDATE: September 6, 1995
If you’re the kind of person who likes to get in on the ground floor, hurry up. We’re approaching the tail end of a wild summer ride, featuring new plays by local playwrights — at Sledgehammer Theatre and at the second annual Fritz Blitz of New Plays.
As with any barrage, some of the shots hit the mark, and others are complete misses. Last weekend’s Fritz Blitz presentation of five new pieces was, well, less than a bull’s-eye evening. Each of the plays had something to offer, either the concept, or the writing, or the performances. None of them managed to score points in all three.
There was palpable sexual tension between D. Candis Paule and Walter Murray in Alison Blake’s “San Diego Date,” but absolutely no chemistry between Jeannine Morton and Dan Holsenback in “The Motel” by Laura Lewis. In any event, I think the Fritz may have to move on from family abuse plays. Relationships are also the focus of Susan Arnout Smith’s “Breaking Off,” but the piece runs aground on its plotline: a guy who can only commit to his mother.
Marilyn Bennett’s “Lithium” features an obnoxiously overprotective Mom, an ineffectual Dad and a resourceful Son, perched over the Grand Canyon, watching a suicide. The dialogue is totally unbelievable. The direction, centered around a ladder, is intrusive.
“Cafe Muse” was created by The Second Story Writers, who gave us “The Women of the Violet Wyn” in last year’s Fritz Blitz. Same strengths and weaknesses this year. The writing is powerful and poetic at times, but there’s no real drama here. It’s clear that each writer created one character, and then there was a frantic and lame attempt to link these interesting but overly long monologues about fascinating women. All the talented actresses were directed at two repetitive levels: soft and screechy. Nice potential here, but it needs a lot of work.
The Fritz Blitz concludes in two weeks with “The Mouth,” by the wacky comic writing team of Burnham Joiner and Todd Blakesley.
Currently uptown, at Sledgehammer Theatre, is a play based on a Donald Barthelme story, by one of our highest-profile local playwrights, Naomi Iizuka. Under the aegis of its inventive director Lisa Portes, Theatre E once again teams up with the SledgeMen. It’s always a good blending of creative juices, but once again, the combined energy results in excessive screaming.
“Tattoo Girl” is Iizuka’s most accessible work, a fable of restlessness, and the search for some kind of fulfillment and excitement in our lives. The support cast is cracker-jack, as are the leads. Sarah Gunnell is beautifully quirky as the tattooed girl, and Brian Salmon is humorously clueless as the husband left by the peripatetic Perpetua, played with great gusto by Carla Harting, though frankly, I liked her better in the recent La Jolla Playhouse production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
Portes has brought out all the humor in Iizuka’s piece, expanding everything to cartoonish dimensions. It doesn’t always work, and some parts are over-inflated. But, amid all the hubbub, there’s a thought or a laugh in there for any fringe theater follower — especially those who are 20-something. I’m Pat Launer, KPBS radio.
©1995 Patté Productions Inc.