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    Brits in pieces

    "Living London" pairs two short plays — one very original and moving, the other a bit predictable — about siblings duking out their differences.


    The two short plays in Deborah Grimberg's "Living London" are not connected but follow the same pattern — both are sibling confrontations that seem to be comedies at first and surprise you with their seriousness at the end.

    Written by: Deborah Grimberg.
    Directed by: Bhanbhassa Dhubthien, Deborah Grimberg.
    Includes individual plays: "Wrapped in Gold," "Hellmouth."
    Cast: Stephanie Woodyard, Michell Kristine Best, Chase Perrett, Gregg Weiner, Amanda Barron, Sarah Burgin.
    Theater for the New City
    155 First Ave.
    Fringe Festival 2002, Aug. 9-25, 2002

    Fringe Festival 2002

    • Show listings

    • All American Boy
    • Beat
    • Confessions of an Art School Model
    • Deviant
    • The Joys of Sex
    • Living London
    • Naked Girls Drinking
    • Out to Lunch
    • Portrait of a President
    • Refugees
    • Resa Fantastiskt Mystisk
    • Room to Swing an Axe
    • Sajjil
    • Star
    • Seeing Each Other
    • Up Your Rabbit Hole
    • The Welcoming Committee

    • ASPIC
    • Stalking Christopher Walken
    • Wet Blue and Friends

    Other Fringe Festivals
    • Fringe 2000
    • Fringe 2001
    The second play, "Hellmouth," packs the most punch. Sharing a table in a British pub are quite an odd couple indeed — loud, gruff, bearded Ray (Gregg Weiner), who normally works in the pub but today is merely downing enough of its beers to get drunk really fast, and prim, nervous, conservatively dressed Alison (Amanda Barron), who's not touching her bottle. What these two could possibly have in common is not clear at first, but we gradually discover that they are brother and sister and they are bucking up their courage before going to speak at a very important meeting that's connected to a dark detail of their past.

    Ray thinks he knows how to handle this meeting.

    "Give 'em the Barry! You've got to give 'em the Barry," he bellows.

    "I am not going to give them the Barry," she protests.

    "Tell me one time the Barry hasn't worked," he insists.

    What is the nature of "the Barry," you might ask? It seems Alison possesses a stare that was capable of wrecking a Barry Manilow concert years earlier and she's had its power at her disposal ever since.

    It's one of several funny touches in this scene, but merely a preparation for the increasingly weighty revelations that are to come. And when they do come, they are very smoothly handled — not in stormy outbursts but in plain talk suited to a brother and sister who've already had this painful discussion before but need to give their old wound a little poke periodically. This is no dramatic showdown, just a very well-captured moment linking the past and future in two people's lives.

    The first piece, called "Wrapped in Gold," starts with the plucky-looking Ruth (Stephanie Woodyard) about to blast her sister Sharon's suburban-style house to bits with a firehose when Sharon (Michell Kristine Best) and her husband Peter (Chase Perrett) burst in to stop her.

    "Ruth, just set the Gutter Drencher on the ground," says the husband as if addressing a dangerous criminal.

    "Do it — now!" shouts Sharon.

    "Now, Ruth," adds the husband, fearing that his sister-in-law doesn't appreciate the full power of the device in her hands, "if only you had witnessed the infomercial as we did . . . "

    As the crisis passes, the two women settle in for a talk about the separate directions their lives have taken. Ruth has traveled the Third World teaching English while Sharon has the classic middle-class life complete with a baby on the way. Frankly, this type of discussion unfolds the same way in every drama where it comes up. ("Your life is stupid!" "No, your life is stupid!" "But secretly I envy you." "Secretly I envy you too." "See, we love each other after all.") But it struck a chord with me and one of my companions anyway, because the subject of orthodox vs. unorthodox lives had been on our minds. You can gauge its relevance for yourself.

    AUGUST 19, 2002

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