In his Playwright's Note, David Robson describes his short work as "absurd, profane, silly, bizarre, take-no-prisoners kind of stuff." Cruel, Calm & Neglected
is all of those things, and, at its best, is pretty deep, too. Not that the silliest pieces aren't fun. "Mel and Mee" is a sort of twisted Mel Gibson fantasy featuring Melissa Dammeyer and Kate Brennan; in "Head First," Kevin Regan plays a toilet as Andrew Mitchell and Suzanne Jean Stein's Peter and Rachel do an odd (and sort of gross) dance of old and comfortable romance; and "You Rang," featuring Jess Eppler, Jim McCabe and Kevin Regan, is about a cell phone with a soul that once inhabited a training bra. Robson seems to go out of his way to be thought-provoking in "Ed Rex," a well-acted piece featuring Michael Gray as a sleazy (very
sleazy) corporate CEO, but, though it has its moments, it ultimately feels a bit heavy-handed.
Where the absurd meets the profound best is in "The Speech," the opening piece. The play starts abruptly, while the house lights are still on and audience members are still chatting. Dylan Geringer is Dani, a young woman giving a speech to her community college class. She's frazzled, can't stay focused, and before you know it, she's happily telling the professor and the class her not-so-happy life story, parts of which are acted out with Todd Holtsberry as her mother and Greg O'Neil as her sort-of boyfriend. It's darkly funny as Dani tries to come to terms with her own potential, and more than a little bit moving. Geringer is perfect in the role.
Also strong is "Killing Neil LaBute," in which aspiring playwright James (George Tietze) writes a critical Amazon review of LaBute's new play, and finds himself in an online exchange with the famous (and, apparently, super-sensitive) stage and film writer, played by the hilarious Melissa Dammeyer in a curly wig. Did Robson himself have a little run-in with the real LaBute on Amazon? I don't know, but it's funny, whatever the inspiration.
Cruel, Calm & Neglected
will be performed for one more weekend, March 2 and 3, at the Black Box at OperaDelaware in Wilmington. See city-theater.org
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