June 8, 1968
Directed by Bryan Fonseca
Drunk Enough to Say I Love You
Directed by Scot Greenwell
Through Nov. 15
Two one-acts — one by a major playwright, the other by a virtual unknown — complete the trifecta of political plays that the Phoenix Theatre opened its season with. Now playing back to back are June 8, 1968 by Anna Theresa Cascio and Drunk Enough to Say I Love You by Caryl Churchill.
Drunk Enough is a 45-minute screed that portrays the U.S. as a dominating lover in its “special relationship” with Great Britain. Michael Shelton (Sam, aka the U.S.) and Roger Ortman (Jack, aka Britain) linguistically thrust and parry in segments of alluded to shared history. While this dramatic verbal exercise is intriguingly penned and intimately dramatized by the aggressive, domineering Shelton and polite, submissive, three-piece-suited Ortman (with the help of director Scot Greenwell), if you are not well-versed in the last 50 years of history, the play can resemble a broader “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel: Dialog consists of fragments, rarely is one subject lingered over more than a few seconds and nothing is explained. It’s a staccato rehash of U.S. intrigue with British backing.
June 8 is an examination of the nihilistic streak in America during the late ’60s. In a New Jersey bog, 15-year-old Bedra, a gawky Mafia princess in headgear, and Cookie, a deflated radio personality now working for the CIA, wait for Robert Kennedy’s funeral train to pass by. Bedra has tapes that could finger her father for Kennedy’s assassination, and Cookie has been sent to get those tapes.
While the dialog often seems to be going nowhere in particular, the interaction of Bedra, Kelli Johnson, and Cookie, Benjamin Snyder, is fascinating. Director Bryan Fonseca has Johnson’s verbal teen angst clashing with Snyder’s silk-smooth physicality. Deception and, ultimately, trust are paramount in this play — both personal and political. The growing relationship between the two characters is feasible given their vulnerabilities. June 8 is more personal and touchy-feely than Drunk Enough — and you don’t need to brush up on your history. June 8’s set (which remains for Drunk Enough) is also quite green and lush.
The play package continues through Nov. 15. For tickets, $25 ($15 on Thursdays), call the Phoenix, 749 N. Park Ave., at 317-635-PLAY.