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"The Author's Voice" & "Imagining Brad"

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Drama Dept. proves once again one of our more errant and fumbling institutional theaters. The current bill revives two sizable one-acts, neither of them especially needed: Richard Greenberg's The Author's Voice(1987) and Peter Hedges's Imagining Brad (1990). The latter is creepy but also funny; the former, merely weird.

In The Author's Voice, Todd, a handsome would-be novelist, keeps the "horribly twisted gnome," Gene, hidden away when company comes, and won't even let him leave the apartment. The beautiful Portia, Todd's editor and would-be seducer, is aware of Gene only as a nasty odor seeping through a not-to-be-opened door. ("The neighbors," Todd explains.) Yet it is the hideous Gene who wants the apparently sexless Todd to make love to Portia, and it is he, too, who seemingly does Todd's writing. It is unclear whether this is symbolism, with Gene standing for the writer's twisted but creative unconscious, or whether it is all to be taken literally. Either way, though, the piece isn't much.

The acting is acceptable, especially by Paige Turco as the sexy Portia -- we should all have such editors. Christopher Orr does what he can with Todd; Philip Seymour Hoffman, a specialist in unwholesomeness, is rather too much of a bad thing as Gene. But the director, Evan Yionoulis, should not have given him crippled legs, a handicap that runs counter to what is required of him.

Imagining Brad is a sort of sadistic John Irving story packaged for the stage. It concerns the developing friendship between the extroverted southern belle Dana Sue Kaye and a newcomer to Nashville, identified only as Brad's Wife, whom she picks up in church and takes under her wing. Dana is married to rough Alex, who brutally abuses her; B.W. is married to Brad, who, in scarier ways than you can imagine, is Alex's opposite.

This two-character play turns into a comedy of horrors, often laugh-provoking, and emerges as a plea for some highly spooky relationships, with B.W. ending up as Dana's rather dubious protector. The gifted Polly Draper is directed by Miss Yionoulis into overacting ferociously as Dana; but as the withdrawn, mousy B.W., Amy Ryan would be perfect if only she could cry on request. Well, this one at least isn't dull.


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