Triptych Productions The Confines of FlatteryBy Bob Ashby • Jul 15th, 2012 • Category: Fringe, Reviews
Fort Fringe – Redrum (612 L St NW DC)
Through July 29th
Reviewed July 13th, 2012
THE CONFINES OF FLATTERY
Fringe is full of shows that focus on improvisation, movement, physical comedy, highly personal statements, and, of course, quirky subject matter. So there was a certain contrarian pleasure in seeing a production of traditionally structured plays emphasizing what actors do with words.
Triptych Productions, a group put together by Lizzi Albert, Heather Benjamin, and Julia Morrissey, performed three (appropriately enough) highly varied one-acts featuring female characters, under the collective title The Confines of Flattery. The title comes from a line in Moilere’s The Affected Young Ladies, directed by Benjamin. The young ladies in question, played by Morrissey and Kelsey Meiklejohn, summarily reject unfortunately blunt proposals from suitors played by Michael Fisher and Joshua Dickinson, much to the dismay of the girls’ dyspeptic father and uncle (Steve Rosenthal). Enter Mascarille (Mitchell Grant), the servant of one of the suitors, prompted by his employer to teach the girls a lesson.
Preening, flipping his hair, raising and lowering his voice melodramatically as he recites thoroughly silly verse, Grant takes over the stage to delightfully comic effect as he plays to the girls’ romantic fantasies. The girls are intended to be coy, frivolous creatures, lightweights who are readily taken in by Mascarille’s shenanigans. Meiklehon fits this profile almost perfectly; Morrissey comes off as a bit too strong, brassy, and in charge for her character. Among the supporting cast, Rosenthal could have provided greater variety in his line reads, while Ric Andersen was a vision in a flowing blonde wig as a female servant to the girls (a character he maintains as he changes props in the second and third parts of the program).
Ferenc Molnar is probably best known to American audiences as the author of the romantic tragedy Lilliom, the basis for Rodgers’ and Hammerstein’s Carousel. His A Matter of Husbands, directed by Morrissey, is a considerably lighter piece. A frumpy young housewife (Meiklejohn) visits the dressing room of a famous actress (Benjamin), believing that the actress has seduced her husband. The actress plays the housewife like a violin, convincing her that all the evidence of her husband’s infidelity actually shows that he is pretending to have an affair to rekindle his wife’s interest in him. Meiklejohn’s housewife is gullible and none too bright, eager to seize whatever hope the actress feeds her. Benjamin’s scheming, highly self-confident actress is always one step ahead of her prey, using her cleverness and glamour to put the wife off the scent. The play provides the guilty pleasure of enjoying the clever and cruel way the actress deceives the wife.
Albert directs the third play, The Mamet Women, Frederick Stroppel’s dead-on spoof of the Mamet style. Full of short, staccato, profanity-laced exchanges between Sally (Morrissey) and Polly (Benjamin), the plot turns on the unavailability of a baby-sitter for a Tupperware party. This show deservedly got the biggest laughs of the evening. Benjamin and Morrissey display impeccable timing as they try to manipulate each other to gain the upper hand. The same qualities were problematic in Morrissey’s performance in the Moilere make her a perfect fit for alpha female Sally, while Benjamin is a worthy opponent in their verbal cage fight.
The plays made efficient use of the small thrust stage in the Redrum space, orienting most of the action toward the largest bank of seats. Costuming was nicely handled, particularly in helping to provide a period feeling in the Moilere and in differentiating between the actress (satiny red robe) and housewife (dowdy print dress) in the Molnar.
Based on the three short pieces in the program, Albert, Benjamin, and Morrissey are new directors to watch in the local theater scene. All three plays were crisply paced with well-timed interactions among the distinct characters, aided by crystal-clear diction. With her multi-character play, Benjamin had the most complex task of the three, which she pulled off with an excellent sense of period style.
- Producers: Lizzi Albert, Heather Benjamin, Julia Morrissey
- Stage Manager: Claire Koenig
The Affected Young Ladies
- Director: Heather Benjamin
- Du Croisy, Almanzor: Michael Fisher
- La Grange: Joshua Dickinson
- Gorgibus: Steve Rosenthal
- Marotte, Jodelet: Ric Andersen
- Magdelon: Julia Morrissey
- Cathos: Kelsey Meiklejohn
- Mascarille: Mitchell Grant
A Matter of Husbands
- Director: Julia Morrissey
- Earnest Young Woman: Kelsey Meiklejohn
- The Famous Actress: Heather Benjamin
The Mamet Women
- Director: Lizzie Albert
- Sally: Julia Morrissey
- Polly: Heather Benjamin
Disclaimer: Capital Fringe provided one complimentary media ticket to ShowBizRadio for this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/8279.
Bob Ashby has been an active participant in the Washington-area community theater scene since his arrival in town in 1975.