Threeplay

By BILL RODRIGUEZ  |  July 28, 2010
These are dog people, five trustworthy dog people who diligently take their pets to the park daily for exercise. They're not lazy cat people, who might as well be taking care of throw pillows. These characters are responsible citizens, allowed to vote, drive, and breed. So why are they so messed up?

Grellong is making the point that if you spent enough time with any group of nondescript folks, dramas would emerge. It's all set in a sand-covered in-the-round stage, which at first makes the characters look like they're playing in a sandbox. The area is littered with balls and pull toys that they can throw to offstage pets we never see.

The first conflict is set up with the opening words, when Anne (Annie Worden) says to Tim (Michael Obremski) that they should alternate days instead of coming together with their dog. They are in the maybe stage of a breakup. Before we can see how he feels, they are interrupted by another regular at the park, Gail (Connie Crawford), an annoyingly chipper middle-aged woman who is amused about what she calls the "boneyard thugs" in the canine social order there.

Rob (Will Shaw) is a systematic guy, a chef at a neighborhood restaurant, who knows just what to do to handle dogs, if not people: don't say "down," say "off," or they'll be confused about "lie down." He eventually has something to hide, but he gives nothing away in his body language, a subject he and Gail discuss at length.

The last person we meet is Dawn (Monica Willey), sweet and cheerful, with much reason to be neither. She's so poor that when Tim shares an orange with her, she wraps her half to take for her children. She can't get away from her lout of a husband because he won't even give her money for food, because she buys healthy things and he is into red meat.

Time changes are indicated by costume changes, so many that the actors must have sore fingers from buttoning and unbuttoning. A year later, all these lives have changed. Another set of dramas can begin.

THIS IS MY OFFICE, by Andy Bragen | Directed by Talya Klein | July 29 8 pm + July 31 4 pm

A wisp of a premise is all that holds up this relatively short (75-minute) play, not enough to keep it from falling flat. A 39-year-old playwright, coincidently called Andy Bragen (an amiable Per Janson), for nine months has the use of a vast, unoccupied midtown Manhattan office space, complete with conference room and corner executive suite with private bathroom and dramatic view of the East River. He won an arts council fellowship. Trouble is, the ability to do anything — or write anything — includes the ability to write nothing. That he proceeds to do, his imagination striking no sparks, no matter how many doughnuts, in increasing number, he fuels it with. He merely tinkers with three plays that are "really close" and a thriller screenplay that keeps changing sinister locations.

Actually, the opening image of an empty business place representing an empty creative mind is a very good metaphor for writer's block, especially since his "studio" is the big, empty corporate carcass of an economic roadkill. He does want to make a living from playwriting, after all, and not just from the travel agency he set up for part-time work and to employ his father — the only job from which the old man will not be fired.

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