Two plays. Two characters each. Two struggles for power. Too much struggling.
The Power Plays, written collaboratively by Elaine May and Alan Arkin, were originally written as three one-acts. The first two are currently being performed at the Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts in Palmer Lake.
The first play, The Way of All Fish, centers around two women in an office on a Friday evening. Ms. Asquith (imagine how it sounds said quickly) is a hefty, domineering, Queen Bee of a business woman. Joan is her frustrated, yet physically buff "secretary" writhing under the thumb of tyranny which won't have her pinned down for long.
All of Ms. Asquith's important dinner appointments have fallen through, so the two women, in spite of all their arguing, decide to order in. The mood changes as Joan gets out a bottle of wine and the conversation switches from business to social. Soon, the play takes an unpredictable lurch from first gear into fifth gear as Joan suddenly explodes from her shell, maniacally explaining her fantasies to kill someone famous in order to become famous.
The tug-of-war which ensues is interesting as one woman gains leverage over the other in a slow, see-saw like fashion. Yet, the strength of Karen C. Kennedy (Joan) as an actress overshadows Doris McCraw (Ms. Asquith). McCraw wields a hefty and intimidating stage presence, but her weaker voice and occasional fumbled lines don't hold up to her opponent's experience and high energy. What it comes down to, however, is who's the bigger fish?
The second play, Virtual Reality, proves to be a much more tantalizing and subtly complex piece of work.
A thin man in a wacky blue, retro-fashion suit stands by a door in an empty warehouse, waiting. Finally, another man walks in and identifies himself as Lefty. Begin round one of their struggle as the two debate over their identity in a paradoxical and witty dialogue.
Virtual Reality uses a minimalist set design and the absence of stage props to evoke our imaginations. The two men are waiting for a shipment to arrive so they can unload it. They wait and wait. The supervisor, DeRecha, decides to not waste any more time, and demands that they perform a "dry run" of the operation.
"But how can we unload stuff that isn't here?" wonders Lefty. A simple man, Lefty struggles with the bizarre, irrational mind of his supervisor, who insists they unload the three "invisible" crates.
The power play between these two men is a verbally frenetic game, packed with entertaining comedic misunderstandings. The imaginary items from the crates soon transform from fantasy into reality and eventually the men depart the warehouse and find themselves in the chilling conditions of the Himalayan mountains. Survival mode kicks in and the rope in the tug-of-war becomes more taut.
Tim Eyermann as DeRecha gives an unyielding performance as the seriously maniacal supervisor. Again here, we are a little lopsided in actor ability, as Jedidiah Esparza (Lefty) seems fairly self-conscious on stage. He does, however, open up a convincingly real imaginary crate.
Jodi Papproth, Director of Virtual Reality, has done a fine job of bringing this unorthodox play to life, taking full advantage of its subtleties, comedic opportunities and witticisms. The Way of All Fish is Ronna Smith's directorial debut. The irregular flow of the play may simply be due to inexperience, and the lack of deeper intrigue may simply be due to the writing. Yet, Smith should be commended on a first time project, which did succeed in eliciting plenty of laughter.