Keely & Du
Theatre Non Nobis
Directed by Scot Greenwell
Wheeler Arts Community
Through May 21
Theatre Non Nobis is taking a serious approach to spring/summertime theater with Keely & Du, a story about a woman who is kidnapped because she is seeking an abortion.
Michael Shelton asks Megan McKinney for advice on kissing in Mark Harvey Levine's romantic comedy 'Cabfare for the Common Man' at the Phoenix Theatre.
Keely was brutally raped by her ex-husband. The uber radical Right-to-Life group Operation Retrieval targets her to be one of their examples: They kidnap four women in different areas and lock the women up until they come to term. In their minds, once the woman comes to see her baby as something separate from herself, as another life, maternal instincts will kick in. Du is the woman who is assigned to stay with Keely. Cloistered together in a basement, they talk.
Angela Steele as Keely shows a great deal of strength. Though at first, when she begins to realize what is going on, she seems less hysterical than might be warranted, as the show progresses you can see her anger concentrating inside of her - it becomes an almost tangible creature. Her frustration at being "fattened up for Jesus" takes over. Hers is the most saturated role emotionally.
Du, C. Elise LeBrun, is an older, kind woman. She seems to really want to be friends with Keely. Du turns out to be the weakest link, and with the development of her character, you can see why. Her compassion for Keely is what undermines her task for Operation Retrieval.
Alan Shepard plays the pastor, a zealot who insists on showing Keely pictures of aborted babies and giving her books on pregnancy and child care. The best compliment I can give his performance is that I wanted to jam my ink pen through his eyes more than once.
Matthew E. Graber comes late into the show as Keely's ex-husband, who claims to have found Jesus. His short performance as a hick who will never change was effective.
The show is not for the faint. It never makes an outright political statement, but shows weaknesses on both sides. The last scene, however, is rather nebulous: Something is physically wrong with Du, but it isn't pointed out; Keely seems to be scattered. Aside from that, though, the show is full of tension. Even during intermission, Steele remains on stage, handcuffed to a bed. Adventurous theater-goers should find this a rewarding experience.
Keely & Du continues through May 21 at the Wheeler Arts Community, 1035 Sanders St. A percentage of the proceeds will benefit the Julian Center. For tickets, call 979-7697, www.nonnobis.org. For more information on this show, see the cover story.
Cabfare for the Common Man
Directed by Bryan Fonseca
Through June 5
Cabfare for the Common Man, although centered around relationships, can make the most bitter of us laugh at ourselves for recognizing the situations, and at just how ludicrous the characters look. Playwright Mark Harvey Levine takes a core truth - platonic relationships, our need to be special, loss of closeness due to the TV set - and creates an outrageous situation to drive that truth home.
The show is made up of eight scenes. Each one centers on a different kind of need or want; the last is the title piece, which sums up a life with the metaphor of a cab ride. "Scripted" deals with a married couple who have fallen into the same routine, and the desire to make sure that every day has a "pink replacement page." "Surprise" deals with how hard it is to find someone in life who can deal with our individual quirks. In "Remote," we see the need for closeness and communication in a relationship. "Passed Hordes" is an example of how our perceptions can change. "The Kiss" deals with the underlying sexual tension in a platonic relationship. "Superhero" shows us that we all need to feel special. "The Rental" is about a boyfriend for hire (and I have to admit that though the downside of the concept is explored, I think Levine might be onto something here - shame you just missed my birthday). And, finally, "Cabfare for the Common Man" reminds us that the journey is what's important.
Megan McKinney, Bill Simmons, Jon Lindley, Sara Riemen, Deborah Sargent and Michael Shelton all take on multiple parts. Each differentiates their characters so that moving from situation to situation is smooth and clear. Shelton and Riemen get some of the most challenging work in "Remote," where they channel a TV set through the remote control. Each has to keep a monologue going at the same time, passing the remote back and forth, switching between a lovers' quarrel and infomercials. They handled it exceptionally well. And though the play as a whole is smartly written, Sargent gets the best line when she hollers out in despair that one of her fears is Rod Stewart.
It's a fast-moving, light-hearted show. Director and set and lighting designer Bryan Fonseca, by creating a carousel-type set and stage, lets you know from the beginning that this will be one fun ride.
Cabfare for the Common Man continues through June 5 at the Phoenix, 749 N. Park Ave. Call 635-PLAY (www.phoenixtheatre.org) for tickets and info.