Dallas — There are no hysterical heroines, no love-torn heroes or tragic fatalities in Triangles, Joe Dickinson’s three upbeat one-act comedies plotted around love triangles, which premiered in 1981 at Pocket Sandwich Theatre at its earlier Greenville Avenue location. Actors in all the fast-moving pieces hit the stage talking, and each play rounds out at about 30-minute sitcom length, separated by two 15-minute (or so) intermissions— the better to accommodate scene changes and drink orders.
Now in its 35th season, PST has been in its longtime home on Mockingbird, a popular venue for melodrama, burlesque and more. As part of the anniversary celebration is a revival of this light-hearted trio of plays from the first season. Written by their late co-founder, and directed by Kim Titus, who appeared in the original run, Triangles has no losers; generations actually speak to each other in a common idiom, and all endings are happy ones.
The first play, The Rubaiyat of Janis Garrett, kicks off the plays after everybody’s finished their Reubens and are all set with cheesecake. The title is a playful reference to the soulful, fatalistic quatrains of The Rubaiyat Omar Kayyam, Edward Fitzgerald’s popular turn-of-the-century translation of a Sufi poet. No loaf of bread or jug of wine here, but rather a fresh pitcher of beer and a married couple dealing with his mid-life crisis. Hal (Maxim Overton) is wrangling with his sobbing young lover on the phone, and promising to tell his wife Janis (Sydney Daly) he’s leaving her tonight. In fact, he’s invited his attorney brother Jeff (Travis Cook) over for cocktails and legal advice. Clever Janis reads the situation when she walks in the door, and pulls some witty plotting out of her elegant handbag. Brothers will be brothers, and this gal knows how to work that sibling rivalry—to clever, comic ends. Overton and Daly, both svelte and attractive, have a spirited power struggle vibe in the last scene.
While pitchers are refllled and customers visit back and forth, Pocket co-founder Rodney Dobbs’ minimalist, easy-to-read set shifts from a beige-toned living room to a tidy dining room for The Night of the Prom. Husband Brad (Kevin Michael Fuld) and his wife Susie (Staci Cook) are up in arms because their teenage daughter Meghan (Kelly McCrum) is bringing home a guy from State U. named Danny (David Helms), who she plans to marry immediately. The ASAP aspect of the news has Mom in a dither—and sends Dad into a clench-jawed cross-examination of poor Danny before the kid can say, “I’m a Catholic, but otherwise I’m a fairly decent person.” Meghan, a bright-eyed political science major, tells her folks that “Catholics tend to marry Methodists.” When it comes to getting married right away, this coed knows more about birth dates than just those of American presidents. The sweet “remember when” scene between Mom and Dad is conventional, perhaps, but both actors make us feel the fleeting return to their own youth. Fuld and McCrum are sweet and tart as rhubarb pie in the funny father-daughter scene.
Last Train to Tophet is set in a community room at the Heartwood Home for seniors. Gerald (Chris Hauge) and Bernie (Barry Hoffman) are playing chess and bitching about each other’s dumb moves, chronic ailments and which of these two graduates of the high school class of 1925 was actually the first to have sex with a hotty classmate named Katherine who later became a famous actress. Back and forth they go, recalling their families’ follies and fortunes and their own declining abilities and endless appetites. A lusty, good-natured nurse (Betty Eden) keeps both old troopers on their toes, and plays a special role in the touching settlement of their ongoing argument about who was first—and foremost—in the bed and heart of Katherine the Greatest Lay. The endgame here, while signaled well ahead, is still touching, without being sentimental, thanks to Hauge’s clear-eyed performance.
Director Titus keeps his sharp cast in the moment, and they serve up Dickinson’s three plays about love, relationships, loyalties and the goofy quirks of life with just the right mix of gumption, sweet talk and gentle humor. A fun night—especially with a pitcher of beer.