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Tucson Weekly Merry Trio

A seasoned cast makes Quicksilver Productions' evening of three one-acts an enjoyable departure.

By Margaret Regan

DECEMBER 29, 1997:  TWO OF OUR wordiest--and sometimes wittiest--playwrights are showcased in the new evening of three one-acts put on by the fledgling Quicksilver Productions.

Christopher Durang's hilarious Mrs. Sorken and Wanda's Visit open the show at the Cabaret Theatre, while Edward Albee's much darker Zoo Story concludes it. Performed by a team of seven seasoned Tucson players, this lively production is the first by the adult component of the new company. (Its junior troupe, The Q Players, were responsible for last summer's Lysistrata.) The three little plays are a good match for the new company's reach: The casts are small and capable, and the sets are spare gatherings of old furniture.

Director Robert Encila, a full-time drama teacher at Green Fields Country Day School, opens the evening with Mrs. Sorken, a 1995 mini-play lasting no more than 10 or 15 minutes. It's supposed to be a highbrow lecture on the Theatre--that's theatre with a capital "A"--by a refined patroness of the arts who has moribund tastes. Her lofty talk about the Greek roots of the word "drama" turns into inspired madness, meandering down a lunatic etymological path to the anti-nausea drug Dramamine and the sickness of modern theatre. Mostly clever wordplay and naughty critique of the powers-that-be, the play does strike a few empathetic chords, alluding ever so briefly to Mrs. Sorken's sorrows. "My life with Mr. Sorken," she says sadly, "is not something Diana Rigg would want to star in."

Marian Wald does a fine job soloing in this kooky role, provoking laughs and an uncomfortable acknowledgment of the ridicule often leveled at older women in our culture.

Durang's Wanda's Visit (1986) likewise operates mostly on the level of breathlessly sustained hilarity, though the dense screen of language allows a few glimpses here and there of the troubles dogging every human existence. Jim and Marsha are a bored couple now married 13 years; their weary ménage is briefly upended when Jim's deranged high-school girlfriend descends upon them. Rich Amada's Jim is good-natured and resigned; Barbara Faye Glover delivers a wonderfully brittle Marsha, equipped with a steely smile ready and able to withstand all assaults. She makes good use of it as Wanda (Hilary Pursehouse) engulfs them in an explosion of endless conversation about sexual exploits, drug deals, crime kingpins and romances gone wrong. Pursehouse is energetically nutty as Wanda, but the funniest character turns out to be Glover's angry Marsha, who cannot bring herself to depart from her code of middle-class manners to banish this maelstrom.

The Zoo Story (1959), Albee's much-produced sketch on random madness and violence in New York City, brings derangement to a much more frightening level. A hyperverbal young madman who's blessed by rays of genius approaches a kindly, liberal-minded publishing executive occupying a bench in Central Park. When the well-heeled gentleman politely acquiesces to the raggedy young man's request for conversation, he's blindsided by an avalanche of surreal tales from the life of the down-and-out: the drunken landlady of the single-room-only flophouse where the strange guy lives, her vicious assault dog, his hauntingly empty picture frames.

The play is an anxious analysis of one of the curious facts of life in the big metropolis: The comfortable and the afflicted share all manner of public space while only rarely acknowledging one another. Briefly uniting people with widely divergent lives, the playwright confounds our expectations about which party is the more likely to turn to rage. Darwin has a nice solid presence as the prosperous publisher, while ex-dancer Guy (Josh) Josserand is all wiry energy as the intense young man.

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