How Solo Can You Go?
Our Productions Theatre Company stages two solo shows seen earlier in the year at a Dallas festival, with entertaining results.
published Saturday, June 7, 2014
Lewisville — A screed about education and parenting from a disintegrating uptight vice-principal that would have made Network’s Howard Beale proud, and an extended character sketch about a goofball opera singer in her post-career days. That is the odd couple of short one-person plays comprising the Mini Solo Comedy Fest presented by Our Productions Theatre Company this weekend in the Black Box Theater of the Medical Center of Lewisville Grand Theater. Both shows were seen earlier this year at the Yolo Solo Festival at the Margo Jones Theatre.
Most solo productions feature a performer-playwright. But in the case of The Elephant in the Room, longtime theater fixture Bruce R. Coleman composed it for his friend, actor LisaAnne Haram. The combo of experience playwright and nuanced actor pushes the piece into the upper levels of solo fare.
Far from Coleman’s over-the-top Pixie De Costa, Haram’s character, vice-principal Mrs. Georgia MacKye, is rigidly composed in a pencil skirt and flip hair-do that would resist gale-force winds. Haram dispenses one Coleman zinger after another, voicing for us all—but especially educators—those things we’d like to say, but never do, hence the title.
The premise is a meeting of MacKye with an unseen mother whose child, “dear little Lollie,” is about to be barbecued for bad behavior by the teachers. MacKye relays a litany of the child’s negative qualities, concluding “in short, your child is an asshole.” Then she pulls out a flask to steel herself in dealing with “our common enemy, your daughter.” It’s all downhill from there.
MacKye cycles through the vice-principal’s moods with great nuance. Cracks appear in the thinly veiled, sweet-faced sarcasm as she tries to adhere to the school district’s politically correct verbiage, but tosses it off in favor of brute honesty. Railing against the godlike status of self-esteem in schools, MacKye vents that by abandoning logic and reasoning in favor of unquestioning self-acceptance, eventually Lollie might “claw her way to the top of the fast-food job chain and still keep her sense of entitlement.”
The honesty just keeps piling on, all pretense to propriety disappears, and by the end MacKye’s toking a joint and waiting for the police to arrive. Perhaps in Coleman’s next act she’ll emerge as a Piper Laurie character in an orange jail jumpsuit, back at the front lines of where too many of America’s poorly parented students end up.
Melva Tosti Attends Career Day, written and performed by Andi Allen, is a light piffle of opera buffa. Tosti began her career, such as it were, as the La Diva Formaggio (The Cheesy Diva), extolling the delights of aged cheese and cured meats at a deli. Tosti regales the students with touring tales of bad mannered opera stars, subversive stage managers, and tenors doing love duets with garlic breath.
Allen portrays Tosti with shiny black Medusa curls, and eye-bending pink and black flowing ensemble with swirly skirt and scarf. She spews a variety of mangled words and malapropisms in a bad Italian accent. References to current pop culture are woven in, including the ubiquitous songs from Frozen and the bad treatment of tenors Andrea Bocelli at the Kimye wedding.