Amidst a local scene swollen with more than its share of epic dramas, thank God for one-act plays. A short and sweet double-bill offered by Open Circle features two tightly written, well-acted original pieces with sharp and powerful performances. Though it's almost certainly serendipity, both evoke dreamy islands, and chart unusual and surprising romances with a sure hand.
Return to Crusoe's Island, by Michael Robinson, is a reimagined sequel to the life of Dafoe's famous castaway. As portrayed with athletic energy by the playwright, Crusoe has happily returned to a simple savagery on his island home, partially because this man's Friday is a woman, played with a joyous energy by Kat Tait. Yet despite his happiness on his isolated Eden and messages from God (also played, as with all other roles, by Tait) to contentedly love his Friday, Crusoe longs for a return to civilization. Typical of a white male, Crusoe decides that it's his duty to "civilize" his love, and find a way to make a legal claim on his island.
Return to Crusoe's Island
Open Circle Theater
ends April 10
There are clear allegorical connections to imperialism, Western man's rape of nature, and other political issues, but this is also a distinctively tragic romance of blind ambition that's worked out entirely on a human scale. Elizabeth Klobe's direction emphasizes the exotic dream imagery of Robinson's writing, where a woman is first imagined, then dreamed, then eventually forced into a mermaid's form. All this, in one focused hour!
Pu'uhonua, Maria Glanz's one-woman play about an abused Midwest housewife who finds an unlikely love in a nearby Japanese internment camp, is equally accomplished. This funny and lyrical piece won "artistic pick of the Fringe Festival" recently, and it's easy to see why. Not only is Glanz's script, which jumps back and forth between the camp and the housewife's kitchen, an understated joy that's equal parts funny and horrific, but she's a meticulous performer whose almost maniacally cheerful housewife is just as carefully observed as her handsome Hawaiian lover, proud and strong but watching his vitality wasting away with imprisonment. Smart, polished, and ultimately much more hopeful than its predicaments might make you think.