Dallas — Don’t get enough of eating food and getting screamed at when at home? Go to Pocket Sandwich Theatre and see Relatively Speaking, a collection of three short plays by Ethan Coen, Elaine May and Woody Allen. And just like at home, try to drink enough so that all the yelling is more bearable.
Seriously, there is so much yelling. The first play, by Ethan Coen, titled Talking Cure finds Larry (Joel Frapart) under the psychological care of Doctor (Robert Banks). Playing off of Freud’s theory that most problems can be solved by simple talking them out, as opposed to with medicine, Doctor tries to penetrate Larry’s psyche in search of what ails him. Of course, it’s his parents. And to hammer that point home, Coen tacks on a scene with the parents, Ron Volkmar and Samantha Labrada, in which they yell and scream at each other the entire time. For such a typically great writer, this piece is lazy. Banks does what he can with the Doctor role, but the other three yell most of their lines and it’s agitating.
Elaine May’s George is Dead is the best of the three, which admittedly, still isn’t saying much. The main action revolves around the death of George, Doreen’s (Labrada) rich, older husband. She shows up late one night at Carla’s (Francine Simpson) apartment to lament and be taken care of. Carla, as it turns out, is the daughter of Doreen’s former Nanny (Maggie Smith) and after a pampered life, is unable to even answer the phone calls from the ski lodge where the body is being held. Carla reluctantly takes up the charge and helps Doreen, weathering a fight with her husband Michael (Nathan D. Williard) in the process. It’s the most well-written and well-acted piece of the bunch. Labrada and Simpson have excellent chemistry. That said, arguments and agitation still rule the day. Every play needs conflict to progress, but this takes it to an extreme. Everything devolves into arguments. One can just imagine director Andi Allen telling the cast: bigger, louder!
Naturally heaviest on humor is Woody Allen’s Honeymoon Hotel. A bride and groom (Labrada and Banks) excitedly enter a cheesy-looking honeymoon suite-type motel room. As the bride retires to the bathroom to slip into a lacy nightie, there’s a knock at the door. It’s the groom’s friend, Eddie (Will Johnson). Their ensuing conversation reveals that the groom is not actually the groom. He’s the step-father of the groom. Eventually both families, a rabbi, a therapist, and a pizza delivery boy all end up in the room in various stages of arguments. Of course, the pizza delivery boy ends up bestowing the sage wisdom that dissolves the tension and leads everyone else to pretty much just shrug it off and move on with life. It’s absurdly humorous and visually the most fun piece. The comedy also makes the constant arguments easier to stomach.
There is an interesting overall arc to the evening. The opening scene of Coen’s play begins in a therapist’s office. Eventually the audience is taken inside the head of the patient. Then, the rest of the evening is exceedingly self–reflexive, finally resulting in everyone existentially shrugging it all off as simply “life happens and there’s really nothing we ca do about it.”
Relatively speaking, of course.