Produced by American Century Theater
Submitted by Debbie Minter
The American Century Theater’s Drama Under the Influence at the Gunston Theater in Arlington (TACT) is a clever compilation of short plays by early 20th Century female playwrights. Once again, TACT has shown that digging through the old dusty attic of
The carefully selected works in Drama Under The Influence relay a timeless approach to women’s lives and aspects of the female experience. Rather than featuring them in a simple, linear fashion, the director attempts to weave them together almost seamlessly for a more unified experience. Gertrude Stein’s Photograph: a Play in Five Acts makes full use of the conspicuous picture frame on the stage and the expanding corners that ultimately frame the set. Her piece, which is more stylized with her characteristic play on words, nuanced interpretations, and even sound combinations, is performed in segments between plays, which helps transition between the various moods, and even serves as a finishing touch finale. It’s a very creative and innovative approach to help get into her work which probably crosses more into the category of performance art than a “play.” The director, Steven Scott Mazzola is well versed in reclaiming forgotten theatrical works for today’s audience, and he has a comfort level and keen sensitivity with this material, from the arrangement of the pieces to accommodating all the stories on the simple yet effective three level set, designed by Elizabeth Baldwin.
All of the plays relay an emerging and exciting sense of self-discovery and also a freedom of expression. Sophie Treadwell’s Eye of the Beholder opens the evening and is staged with an Eastern influenced, almost Kabuki stylized approach to introducing relationships. Susan Glaspell’s Trifles is a masterpiece in slowly uncovering hidden motives for a husband’s murder, while her Suppressed Desire playfully mocks the dangers of over-ambitious psychological analysis. Dorothy Parker’s crackling wit tackles human relationships in Here We Are, with a newly wed couple on a train ride to their
By design, Drama Under the Influence is “a latest installment of TACT’s ‘Reflections’ series, featuring new works that explore important figures, events or movements of the Twentieth Century.” Without a doubt, this compilation of plays gets across the depth, insight, courage, gritty reality and humor of several influential and talented female writers of the time. As with any good treasure, their messages are timeless. The TACT production team deserves our attention, and even our gratitude for digging among old discards and coming up with this winner.
Drama Under the Influence at Theater II,