One of the most astonishing things about "The Boston Plays," the group of six one-acts now running at the Boston Center for the Arts, is that the production marks the 10th anniversary of Centastage. For 10 years, Centastage has been devoted exclusively to showcasing the work of Boston-area playwrights, through "Write On" (a workshop for playwrights), readings and premieres. "The Boston Plays" are all by playwrights whose work already has been featured or produced by Centastage, and as such, offer a tantalizing tease into their worlds.
The evening opens with Bill Lattanzi's My Way, a goofy monologue by a slob who has decided he won't compromise in his relationship anymore, even as he does. My Way is closer to a sketch than a one-act, but it highlights Lattanzi's skill with clever, rapid-fire wordplay.
One of the best pieces of the evening is What Mother Knows, a taut two-hander that shows off the acting talents of Mary Kearney and SeraRose Roth. As parent and teenager "share" information, Kearney's attempt at motherly advice balances neatly off of Roth's pent-up emotions.
Click, Michael Bettencourt's apparent homage to Joe Orton, trips itself up in an attempt to present a confession of murder. The horror of the deed never really takes hold, mostly because Bettencourt's dialogue between the murderer and the partner he's confessing his crime to never feels convincing. Transforming this into a twisted version of Edward Albee's The Zoo Story might help Bettencourt get closer to raw nerve.
Ginger Lazarus' Arrhythmia, about a woman having an affair with a married doctor, also seems to circle her subject without quite reaching her point.
The Piney Boy, by Joe Byers, never makes it past stereotypes. His tale of an engaged couple who struggle with opposing ideas about what to do after killing a young boy in a car accident is way too predictable to produce any tension.
Legwork returns to Dean O'Donnell's favorite topic, the black comedy of office politics. Here he pits a young "trainee" against an old hand who bends the rules to get the job done, and his hilarious dialogue and unexpected power shifts are a delight.
Besides offering a peek at these playwrights, "The Boston Plays" also introduces some previously unknown actors, especially Mary Kearney, who knows how to use stillness, and Joseph J. Pearlman, an actor reminiscent of John Malkovich, who uses every inch of his body in his performance.
"The Boston Plays" also highlights the work of sound designer Rick Brenner, who collected an eclectic but effective selection of songs as a soundtrack for these diverse pieces.
Centastage's latest offers a fascinating look at the growing pool of Boston talent.
© Copyright Boston Herald Library Oct 19, 2000