Never underestimate the power of the actor. Sometimes he or she has to go it alonewithout the window-dressing of elaborate sets or costumes or lights. But if the material is strong enough, and the performer committed enough, good things can happen. So it is at Bongo After Hours Theatre, where the fledgling Pendulum 3 Theatre is currently presenting "Games Night," an original pairing of two famous one-act plays, Line by Israel Horovitz and Adaptation by Elaine May. If the bare-bones presentation factors don't add to this evening's entertainment, neither do they detract once all is said and done. That's because the cast, under the manic direction of Bob Roberts, has immense fun with the scripts, projecting consistent energy and giving in joyfully to the absurdist scenarios.
In Horowitz's kooky wordplay exercise, five characters jostle for position in a waiting line, ostensibly poised to buy tickets to a baseball game. This setup could have been the basis for a classic improv exercise, wherein the purpose of the waiting eventually has nothing to do with anything, and the "game" becomes all about character, status and one-upmanship. May's play is a sharp-witted parody of a TV game show in which an unassuming sad sack runs the course of his lifecradle to gravesuffering the impact of self-absorbed parents who essentially put him on the path of his own paranoid self-absorption and what amounts to personal victimization by a superficial, fear-inducing, security-conscious society. Happiness eludes our hero, if only because he hasn't the wherewithal to recognize exactly what that might be.
These plays hail from the '60s and '70s, and hence are fraught with references to people and concepts that will occasionally leave behind the less culturally literate. Golf great Arnold Palmer, U.S. Sen. James Eastland, Hollywood producer Dore Schary, the political-activist group SNCC, baseball Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio and others pop up with some regularity. Yet these never interrupt the flow of the writing, nor do they in any way invalidate the hilarious premises.
Roberts has a cast of eight on hand, including himself. The level of their achievement waxes and wanes, but everyone's in tune with the outlandish spirit of things, and the players evoke plenty of laughs. John Devine and Jim Wright are standouts, as is Roberts, who, taking the lead of Adaptation's nebbishy Everyman, proves to be the perfect fodder for the cannons of the unforgiving American Dream. Talented Leslie Wallace is also on board and, as in previous Bongo appearances, she charms with her versatility. Besides Wright, the only other actor appearing in both plays is bj Kelley. His gifts are raw, but he's got some presence and he does a lot of catchy, often rapid-fire wisecracking. His work in Line, for example, is unevenly presented, but there are quirky surprises that keep it interesting.
If you're looking strictly for smart laughs, check this one out. The final two peformances are April 22-23 at 7:30 p.m.
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That clip is horrifying. It looks like postmortem makeup. Very uncanny valley.
AGGGHHHH that last picture!