from the C-T...
immediate theatre project shines twice
by Tony Kiss
On a pretty summer day, a passionate baseball fan might exclaim “Let’s play two!” Asheville’s immediate theatre project is now doing just that, performing a pair of shows, one after another, at the cozy N.C. Stage Company space downtown.
And these aren’t quick, connected one-acts. “On the Verge or the Geography of Yearning” and “Below the Belt” are not linked in any particular way, except sharing the same director (Hans Meyer) and some offstage crew. The cast, playwrights and stories are different. Audiences can watch one, or both, or come to see the plays on different nights.
It’s a lot of work for this little acting company, which has established itself as one of the city’s best. And it’s a lot of theater to absorb in one evening (or matinee, as the case may be). On opening night, “Verge” began at 7:30 p.m. and “Belt” ended around 12:30 a.m., which included intermissions in both programs, and a break between the two.
But again, it’s not necessary to catch them both in one sitting, though it makes for an interesting and entertaining experience.
“Verge” centers on three women explorers in the late 19th century, making a bizarre jungle journey. “Belt” follows three guys toiling in a prisonlike manufacturing plant, two of them constantly snapping at the third.
‘On the Verge’
“On the Verge or The Geography of Yearning” by Eric Overmyer has three Victorian-era women in some thick jungle to explore a land they call Terra Ingognita. Fanny (Katie Langwell) is the conservative housewife, Mary (Vivian Smith) the no-nonsense traveler who usually goes solo, and Alexandra (Trinity Smith) the youngest and the dreamer in this bunch.
Quickly, it’s obvious they’ve slipped into a time warp, and the further they go, the more they travel to the future, and the stranger the tale becomes. Erik Moellering plays a handful of supporting male characters. By the year 1955, they have come so far from their own time that some personal decisions need to be made.
‘Below the Belt’
“Below the Belt” is plenty quirky as well. In an industrial plant, eager new arrival Dobbitt (Chris Allison) finds himself in workplace hell, toiling alongside the fidgety, hair-triggered Hanrahan (Darren Marshall in the strongest performance in either show) and their nasty boss, Merkin (Strother Stingley). While Dobbitt only wants to please, the others torment and turn against him at every turn. Here, too, a choice must be made, with Merkin pulling Dobbitt into a plot that’s totally against his nature.
This one is a bit like The Three Stooges meet “Seinfeld” – and it’s a howler that leaves you buzzing at the end. With the shows running through Aug. 17, make a point to catch this engaging “experiment in theater.”
01 August 2008
from the C-T...