TRAPPED BY MEMORY: Maynard in True
The imagination knows its own way, but it sometimes needs marching orders. That’s the idea behind Elemental Theatre’s 3.a.go.go, which is playing at Perishable Theatre (through February 3). Three playwrights were given the challenge of writing short plays incorporating — or building around — arbitrary elements.
It’s a common writing exercise to get creative juices flowing. The troupe has refined the process from last year’s Pent.a.go.go, this time inserting six things into three plays rather than stuffing nine into five. Written on scraps of paper pulled from hats, the objects to be included were a mirror, a bellows, and a black hole; the events were having a possession and building a fire; and the wild card was “something in the distance is coming closer.”
Nevermind how cleverly, or not, these requirements were inserted into the plays. They were just for pump-priming and should fade into the background rather than pop out and impress us with cleverness. Achieving various degrees of success, this year’s works are a modern-day tale of Faustian bargaining, an impressionistic account of parental grief, and a collection of quasi-philosophical sci-fi short takes.
A Mark, written by Nancy Lucia Hoffman and directed by Alex Platt, starts out humorously sinister. Victoria (D’Arcy Dersham), dressed devilishly in red and black, slinks about seductively and announces that steak tips and drinks — “No tea!” — are served here, in what appears to be some sort of men’s salon. When her assistant (Sara Betnel) addresses her as Madame, we suspect that this might be literal. But no, what’s in store for visitors is not so prosaic as a brothel. Her first client, Dylan (Michael Locicero), is a returning customer, and we see that Victoria’s service involves providing men the confidence to succeed at whatever they want. But when Dylan brings a referral, Connor (Jeffrey Dujardin), we learn that her method involves “conjuring” rather than psychological insights, and what could have been made more interesting remains just an entertaining Gothic cautionary tale.
True Time Broke, by Alex Platt and directed by Peter Deffet, is a free-form poetical exercise. It’s about a couple mourning the death or serious injury of their child, but we are well into it before we know their plights are related. At first it appears that the man (Michael Locicero) and woman (Nicole Maynard) are isolated in their own separate hells. He can neither see, hear, or feel anything, lost in his own thoughts (not exactly a fertile setting for raising interest). She is surrounded by frames representing mirrors in which she sees herself at various times in her life. We eventually learn such things as that the red stains on her shirt are paint rather than blood — she’s an artist. Locicero and Maynard do what they can with the opportunity, but the playlet remains navel-gazing and confusing as well as unnecessarily cryptic.
The success of the evening is the funny, sometimes hilarious, 6 Short Films About Black Holes, by Dave Rabinow and directed by Jill Blevins. There’s inherent nail-biting potential in the idea of a thingamabob in the center of every galaxy, including ours, so dense that even light can’t escape its gravity. It’s a sci-fi premise that makes Godzilla look like Suzie Salamander.
Elisabeth Gotauco, Kelly Nichols and Christopher Rosenquest, outfitted in movie usher uniforms, act out a half-dozen preposterous premises. In a Star Trek spoof, Nichols as Dr. Manly gets to take the line “Light to escape this sumbitch!” and somehow make it very funny. As gangly as an outer space Dick Van Dyke, Rosenquest physicalizes fear and stress at every opportunity.He can also be amusing sitting still playing guitar, as he sings a clever ditty, “God Is Just a White Hole.” In a piece that turns abruptly serious for a while, Gotauco smoothly handles the transition into a mother who can’t find her child. In the funniest of the “films,” “There’s a Hole In My Life,” the trio reveals for the first time why the Police broke up, depicting the band and an exhausted post-concert Sting. They take off in the Sting Ship, since only the power of a black hole can recharge the likes of him or Bono or other cause-concert obsessives.
3.a.go.go runs for less than 90 minutes and is performed without intermission.