November 22 - November 29, 1995

Clutching At Clichés

B y  J a n a  R i v e r a

WHAT DO ALL of these tiresome Clichés have in common: "I have to pee so bad I can taste it"; "Beggars can't be choosers"; and "Life's not exactly a motion picture"?

Give up?

They're all delivered in a span of about two minutes in Claudia Allen's cliché-ridden Raincheck, now playing at One In Ten Theatre.

Unfortunately, the platitudes don't stop with the words--the situation is Cliché and so is the resolution. The play is billed as "a delightful, hometown story as only she could tell it." But many could tell this "hometown" story, and many could tell it better, but probably nobody else would think it worth telling.

Here's the story: Gwen and Thema were high school buddies until some mysterious event took place and they parted ways. Now, after avoiding each other in their tiny town for 17 years (they didn't even speak at Tuesday night bowling league), they finally reunite.

Although we're supposed to be held through the first half of the play by suspense, the mysterious event is obvious as soon as we learn that one of the women is gay and the other is not. Sub-plot: They reunite in the home of Thema's grandmother, who is dealing with an aging sister who's having trouble disentangling the past from the present.

We may not have two full-blown legitimate scenarios here, but, at the least, we have two legitimate topics. Unfortunately, Allen does nothing more with them than plop them on stage, give them line after line of banalities, and leave them. Undeveloped characters speak in undeveloped scenes. Allen seems to think a lesbian theme should be enough to carry the play. But a poorly developed play is a poorly developed play, no matter the topic.

I guess one could argue the relationship between the two women develops over the length of the play, however, it's done without conflict, without intensity, without emotion and with great predictability. This is not to say the actors, Rene Berry and Meikil Berry, act without emotion. On the contrary, both talented actors give the script a better performance than it deserves.

The other relationship, between the two elderly sisters, Pansy and Flora, is more baffling. Each having lost her husband, they find themselves sharing a home. Flora, somewhat senile, wanders from room to room counting and imagining herself homeless as she apparently was during the Depression. That's simply all. What are we to make of this? Are we to think, "Gee, it sure is hell getting old"? Or are we to say "Life's short, grab some while you can"? Or are we supposed to derive some sort of family-taking-care-of-family/it's-nice-to-have-someone kind of thing? Who knows?

For whatever reason (last minute cast replacement?) Holly M. Collett plays Pansy with script in hand, and although she does not read every line, she sounds as if she's reading every line. Still, she gives an admirable effort. Darlinda Robinson does a fine job as Flora.

Allen attempts some humor in the play (I think "I have to pee so bad I can taste it" coming from an 84-year-old is evidence of a feeble attempt) and she should attempt more. But it must be fresh and it must be clever and, above all, it must be funny.

To her credit, she is most times careful not to use Flora for comic relief. Those of use who've seen parents or grandparents slip into the past and call out names of those long dead find little humor in the situation. Director Rhonda Hallquist, who pulls everything possible out of this weak play, also ensures that Flora's sad situation is treated with compassion. That's about all anybody can do with it, since nobody knows why it's there in the first place.

One in Ten Theatre, led by artistic director, Kimberly Lowry, is a talented group of artists committed to presenting quality theater with gay and lesbian topics, but the selection of this play leaves me stumped.

One In Ten Theatre's production of Raincheck continues with 8 p.m. performances Wednesday through Sunday through December 2 at the Historic Y Theater, 738 N. Fifth Ave. Tickets are $9 in advance, $10 at the door, $8 for seniors and students with ID. For information and reservations call 770-9279.

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