The Bloomington Area Arts Council’s 2004-2005 performance series begins with "two by thomas." The two are a pair of very different one-act plays by Thomas Kristopher. The productions are cleanly staged by by Danielle Bruce with assistance from Amanda Renee Baker and feature exceptionally strong casts.
"On How to Accommodate Marlo’s Frying Pan" claims lineage from Samuel Beckett and I’d be willing to bet that Eugene Ionesco is at least an uncle in the family. Lest you fall into the errors that I made from the title, let me quickly assure you that the play has nothing to do with either the mightily lined Elizabethan, Marlowe, nor with Joseph Conrad’s long winded narrator. Marlo is a young woman played by Nicole Bruce. Her basic stage prop is a brightly enameled yellow frying pan. "On How to Accommodate…" at the Waldron, is a quintet piece with a nicely balanced cast of curiously competitive and yet cooperative eccentrics. There’s Patrick Doolin as the dignified ringmaster, John Apple, always ready to do a dramatic reading from a phone book. The glamorously dramatic Seeda of Amanda Renee Baker declares that she is torn between playing Mae West and Gypsy Rose Lee. The difference comes down to the size of the individual feathers in her boa. Christian Zabriskie appeared as a young man ready to move into management, but only in a rather limited way. He sets up a flea circus. Zabriskie’s character is called Riddy Pop. No doubt it’s a family title of some affection. The final member of "On How to Accommodate…"’s is a helmeted, Wellington booted, coverall clad attractively whimsical character called Boon. He’s played by Mike Price. The play itself is a bit of puzzler with an attractive cast that does fairly interesting things in a sort of existential theatre exercise game. Eventually the cast of "On How to Accommodate Marlo’s Frying Pan" seem satisfied with an involved compromise that takes them moderately happily off in a group office elevator trip.
The second offering of "two by thomas" at the Waldron is titled "Loose Hog in the House of God." Nicole Bruce is back on stage, this time as Yinnie, a moonie mountain girl. Mike Price appears as Macon, a driven, angry man lost in the middle of nowhere with a broken down car. Unlike "…How to Accommodate…" the audience for "Loose Hog…" was quickly on familiar dramatic ground. The two characters revealed themselves and moved from mystery to open hostility and then to nicely creative apotheoses. Now, although the ground and curve of the plot were traditional, the actual drama had plenty of surprises, some well earned some still puzzlingly unsupported. Playwright Kristopher gave this winning pair the best extended writing of the night and they both delivered impressive performances of complex and yet sympathetic characters.
Thomas Christopher’s plays "Two by Thomas: On How to Accommodate Marlo’s Frying Pan & Loose Hog in the House of God" will be performed this Thursday, Friday and Saturday at eight in the intimate Rose Firebay of the John Waldron Arts Center.