Wild Women Writing Produces Shorts by Acclaimed Playwright Will Eno
There are few contemporary playwrights more acclaimed than Will Eno. Eno has tapped into a stripe of the American neurosis with an eye both witty and unsparing. Columbus has had a spate of fantastic productions of his work over the last few years, from Otterbein to CATCO to Available Light but arguably his finest local interpreter has been director Katherine Burkman.
Burkman’s Wild Women Writing group has produced two of Eno’s shorts – a medium both writer and director specialize in – at Short North Stage for the weekend. The double feature begins with Intermission, featuring Stephen Woosley as Jack, Colleen Dunne as Jill, Christy Brothers as Mrs. Smith, and Todd Singer as Mr. Smith; and concludes with the monologue title and deed performed by Jon Osbeck (Man).
The unexpected staging works for the sweet miniature Intermission. The audience is in seated on the stage facing the normal audience seating with actors looking at us. The four actors have just watched the first act of a play called The Mayor. Intermission plays out over roughly 20 minutes, the length of its namesake, with movement limited to their seats – hilariously punctuated by Singer’s Mr. Smith getting up but never walking away.
Intermission sums up how similar we all are, why we see plays, and how even art that isn’t great – the play the characters are seeing includes dialogue like “Wither, the Mayor,” – can spark real feelings in us. It also, despite the avowed cipher-nature of the characters, draws them as people. There’s a delightful moment of connection where Dunne’s Jill and Brothers’ Mrs. Smith alight on “almost crying” during a moving speech only to have Singer puncture the moment with “But you didn’t.” The actors and Burkman excel at building a world in the constraints of this short. I both wished it lasted longer while marveling at how it summed up the simultaneous deep realism and rich weirdness that Eno does better than almost anyone.
Title and Deed – using the other half of the stage with the audience in curving rows facing the “right” way – isn’t as successful. The tone here, in text and performance, quite gels. In its sudden shifting, you can almost hear the gears grind, between broad comedy, philosophical treatise, and existential crisis, it’s Eno at his most Beckett-like but too few punches land.
Title and Deed teems with classic Eno observations teetering over the abyss into the surreal. Like “Maybe you’re doing something similar, right now. Making something into something else and then somehow killing the second thing.” Or “My God, back then we’d throw a parade for anything.” Some comedy also works as an interference color; I remember laughing hard at “Maybe I’ve fallen in with the wrong crowd. I don’t mean you, I mean in real life.” But too often the action gets underlined; an elbow in the ribs, a loud laugh and “Get it?” Worst, the monologue feels long for its 45 minutes, the repetition doesn’t build to a climax or find enough interesting in its stasis.
Double Eno runs through August 5 with performances at 8:00 pm Thursday through Saturday and 3:00 pm Sunday. For tickets and more info, visit wildwomenwritingreadings.wordpress.com.