An intriguing trio

Perishable’s Women’s Playwriting Festival
By BILL RODRIGUEZ  |  October 22, 2008

LAUNDRY DAY: Harrison and Dersham in Lazarus Disposed.

There were 196 plays submitted to Perishable Theatre from around the country, and three were chosen for the 14th International Women’s Playwriting Festival. For three weeks, each of the one-act plays has been staged by itself, supplemented by local talent presenting film, hip-hop, fado, and other entertainment.

The trio of plays will now be presented at each performance through November 2.

Desi Moreno-Penson’s Lazarus Disposed is a wacky little romp, full of broad humor and larger-than-life emotions. The husband of Bethany (D’Arcy Dersham) is missing and presumed dead. A memorial service has been held that afternoon. She is shrieking with a grief that has streamed rivulets of mascara not just down her cheeks but into her décolletage. The target of her abuse is Ferdinand (Patrick Harrison), the best friend of the deceased, and her secret lover. His competitive wailing indicates an affection for his friend that is not on the straight and narrow, if you catch the drift.

The humor here is as black as their mourning apparel: for him a ruffled tux shirt (and a clown tie sticking out of his pocket); for her, a low-cut sexy-chic dress, offset by runs and holes in her stockings, to indicate how extremely distracted she is. But her dishabille is neat and tidy compared to that of her kitchen. Laundry is heaped everywhere — in baskets, in corners. It becomes another character in the play, as sullied and disordered as their lives, as does an eerie sound emanating from the kitchen sink drain.

Dersham takes slow, pornographic delight in showing how she rolled up his laundry and squeezed the water out of it. Harrison similarly, deliciously, milks Ferdinand’s torment for every ambiguous morsel of suffering. Director Beth F. Milles whips them into frenzies, but quickly settles them down when some fine-tuned emotion needs our attention. By the time late in the play that we meet the mysterious, silent Man (Luis Astudillo), who has been in the bathroom for several hours, we have become accustomed to a weird and wonderful world where anything can happen, so anything that does happen seems perfectly reasonable. The playwright has set us up to accept any concluding flight of fancy she can devise, and she doesn’t waste the opportunity to soar.

Playwright Moreno-Penson, based in New York City, has an MFA in dramaturgy and theater criticism from Brooklyn College.

Holly Jensen’s Lizzy Izzy unfolds interestingly toward its surprising — but inevitable — payoff. The Izzy in the title is easy enough to figure out, since the main character is named Isabella (Katie Cohn). The Lizzy part remains a matter of speculation and suspense, until all is resolved in the last moments. That’s not to say that this play relies on a tricky O. Henry ending, just that it’s skillfully structured.

When we meet Isabella, she is in jail, you see, and that’s what we’re first wondering about. Her dreams and thoughts upon waking consist of hostile remarks and accusations by the other characters, who surround her. The person who might prove even more harmful, however, is her lawyer (Nicole Conlon). She already has annoyed one judge by not being prepared, and she is itching to leave the jail cell to give inadequate counsel to her dozen other indigent clients. We don’t know how serious the charges are against Isabella, only that she insists she acted in self-defense, that she was hit first.

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