Reviewed by Will Stackman
First the stats. This year's Theatre Marathon had 50 10 minute (+/-) performances credited to 51 writers and featured over 250 Boston-area actors. The charity event, held a month later than usual, was moved to the Wimberly, a new 300+ seat proscenium theater with continental seating at the BCA. This downtown location is far more staid and comfortable than the rough and ready studios over at Boston Playwrights where this benefit for the Actors' Benevolent Fund has been staged previously. Authors ranged from established to neophyte, with 25 past participants in the roster, including 5 of the 14 women. Boston's professional actors appeared alongside community theatre veterans and up and coming students. While the house was not full to overflowing much of the time, as in the past, the day was well attended by friends and supporters of local theatre. Now for the credits.
Things started off seriously with Playwrights' Platform's production of writer/anthropologist Hortense Gerado's "In the Wake of the Horsemen" directed by Jerry Bisantz Merle Perkins played an American nurse compelled to return to Darfur to keep a promise to a dead woman. This tense scene, backed by a Koto drummer, could well be part of a longer work. This piece was soon followed by Joyce Van Dyke's "The Earring" which featured IRNE winners Bobbie Steinbach and Ann Gottlieb. The former is currently appearing with the Actors' Shakespeare Project in "Julius Caesar." Neil A. Casey, who got his first IRNE this year, was at the center of actor/television personality Ted Reinstein's "The Interrogation" sponsored by the Lyric Stage, before heading next door to play Mason Marzak in Speakeasy's "Take Me Out", which was recently extended into July at BCA's Roberts Studio. The first hour wrapped up with two ASP members, Sara Newhouse, who was Lady Ann in "Rich.III" last fall and Greg Steres, currently in the title role of "Julius Caesar" playing a heart-wrenching domestic scene in John Shea's "The Bar Stool.", directed by fellow ASP member Doug Lockwood. The remaining nine hours had similar moments, with only a few unsuccessful pieces.
The next hour included Robert Pemberton and Bill Mootos as a difficult clueless movie star and his harried personal assistant in Andrew Clarke's "Breakfast with Harvey" directed by Centastage's Joe Antoun. Mariela Lopez-Ponce, recently seen at the Lyric, was directed by Brandeis' Daniel Gidron in Roseanna Yamagiwa Alfaro's quirky marital drama "The Other Ocean", another script ready for expansion. Then A.R.T.founder Robert Brustein discovered his inner-clown parodying a reading of classic verse in Beacham's Last Poetry Reading, ably assisted by ART veteran actress Karen MacDonald as the professor's voluble wife afflicted by Tourette's syndrome, directed by Boston Theatre veteran, David Wheeler.
Queer Soup, North Shore Music Theatre, Chelsea's TheatreZone, Company One, the Sugan, the Wheelock Family Theatre, Providence's Perishable, Boston Theatre Works, Shadowboxing, Theatre Offensive, the Theatre Coop, the New African Company, and Provincetown all sponsored pieces during the afternoon. Sugan's featured Rick Park and Ciaran Crawford, last seen in their "Gagarin Way", and Irene Daly a Rough & Tumble and Mill6 regular, in Joshua Rollins ' "...Capt. Normal". Wheelock's production of Candace Perry's "Sorry" featured Jane Staab and Harold Withee. Shadowboxing Theatre Workshop had the most unique staging of the Marathon with three mountain climbers at the end of their ropes, literally, in BU grad student R. Brad Smith's "The Lemonade Stand at the End of the Earth" directed by Michelle Aguillon, president of the Vokes Players. Deanna Dunmeyer was a hit in Peter Shelburne's fantasy Gus Penelope Syberson playing a sentient GPS/computer phone., while Cheryl Singleton and Keith Mascoll did good work in Frank Shefton's "The Place We Met" with an uncredited mime appearance by director Vincent Siders, New African's honcho.
The 5-6pm slot saw IRNE winner Will McGarrahan as a day laborer who wants to sing in John Andert's "Summertime" supported by Candace Brown and Brian Abscal and directed by Julia Jirousek, sponsored by the new suburban Village Theatre Project. Rough and Tumble revived a scene from last fall's Mondays and Other Days with words by William Donnelly, featuring the master of the slow burn, George Saulnier III and company co-founder, Kristin Baker. Gloucester Stage Company's Israel Horowitz made his annual contribution with "The Fat Guy Gets the Girl" featuring rotund Rick Doucette and petite Emma Shaw in a bedroom farce directed by Paula Plum. During the 6-7pm slot, Ed Bullins offered a bit of bio-drama in "Black Caesar" sponsored by Our Place and directed by their artistic head Jacqui Parker. Boston Playwright's got Richard McElwain to direct Tug Yourgrau's "Just the Two of Us" which featured IRNE winner Alice Duffy, a Marathon regular. This gentle comedy was followed by a mini-opera monodrama "The Story of an Hour" by Eliz. Elior and Stan Hoffman, ably sung by Mary Ann Powers with music director Jeffrey Goldberg at the piano. New BC grad Crystal Gomes' farce "Clam and Herschel Go To Market" featured Jeremy Johnson and Lonnie McAdoo in the title roles with cameos by Helen McElwain selling mackerel and Steven Barkhimer selling Cadillacs.
Between 7 and 9pm, Turtle Lane sponsored Michael Collins' drama in the current Irish mode, "The Playground", directed by James Tallach. Stoneham Theatre brought in UMass Boston student Zachariah Wieler's marital drama "Crazy Horse" with artistic director Weylin Symes putting a fellow director Robert Jay Cronin and Caitlin Lowans on the spot. QE2 had Ed Peed playing a computer in Kathleen Rogers' satire, Sylvia Angell's Driving Test , while the Huntington put Ken Flott and Nathaniel McIntrye, who'd just finished the matinee of "Take Me Out", in Charles Evered's "Ted's Head", the only Red Sox related piece in this year's Marathon. Coyote's Courtney O'Connor, who just did Janet Kenney's "My Heart and My Flesh" at BPT, explored more family dynamics in Kenney's "The Space Beside Me." John Kuntz made his annual appearance in "Kix", playing a disturbed matron who collects cereal boxes as a way to stay relatively sane, while Foothill's gave another outing to Robert Mattson's "famous, small f " seen in last year's Playwrights' Platform Festival at BPT. William Donnelly got serious with Deprivation Diary in Industrial's presentation featuring Heather McNamara and Kevin LaVelle.
In the home stretch, there were two playwriting specific pieces; first Dana Yeaton's farce "The Missing Bagel Factor" about the peril of regionalism with Elaine Theodore as the hapless playwright and IRNE winner Maureen Keiller as sardonic Nurse Stebbins,followed by Marathon veteran Jack Neary's "The Rewrite" featuring IRNE winner and crowd favorite, Ellen Colton. Underground Railway Theatre presented BU Playwrighting gradMolly Smith Metzler's "Decoding Fruit" featuring Underground's Debra Wise opposite John Kuntz playing her troubled brother. Vineyard Playhouse's Jon Lipsky premiered "Walking the Volcano", a two-hander involving Vietnam journalists. The evening ended with Judy Braha directing Jeremiah Kissel and Ken Baltin, two stellar local actors, in BU Visiting Professor of Playwriting Richard Schotter's New-Age comedy "The Spot", presented by the Jewish Theatre of New England. Once again, the BTM was a highly successful memorable, if somewhat tiring, day in the theatre. The event continues to bring together diverse performing entities, from major University-based high-budget stages to shoestring operations with limited production schedules, while continuing the venerable tradition of the "quality" presenting benefit performances for their own. Additional comment has been collected on the Theater Mirror, the official archive for the IRNE's, under Reviews.
If next year's "running" could be scheduled closer to the actual Marathon, there might be a larger student audience. With a lot more lobby space, the actors' and directors', and even crew, bios should be posted somewhere. While this is a celebration of playwriting (and even playwrighting), the three hundred plus creators of the actual event deserve more credit. A full list might also be added to the schedule posted on BPT's website.