EVIDENCE ROOM PRESENTS
Vera - Jane Edith Wilson
Director - Bart DeLorenzo
Stage Manager - Sydney Cheek
November 1 - December 2, 1995
Los Angeles Times
Ouch. The dialogue in Harry Kondoleon’s The Houseguests slices and dices, zigs and zags. Even in print, the bitter wit jumps off the page. So it’s especially gratifying to see, in the flesh, this last play by one of the several young men whose prominent playwriting careers--and lives--were cut short by AIDS.
The production is not a complete success. The acoustics of the Evidence Room, a cavernous ex-warehouse in Culver City, swallow a few of the words, and the lighting design isn’t always on target. The play’s final stroke is awfully inconclusive, even unclear, considering the big buildup that precedes it.
However, anyone who appreciates wicked humor will find parts of this play irresistible. And even those who don’t appreciate wicked humor will discover that Kondoleon points out its limits even as he flings it all over the stage.
Saber-toothed Vera (Jane Edith Wilson) and John (Jeb Brown) are the hosts of hapless Gale (Holly Orfanedes) and Manny (Brian Glover) at their beach house. They loathe their guests, and each other. Vera in particular drips with contempt for just about everything.
Unknown to Manny, his wife, Gale, has a wild crush on her former schoolmate Vera. During the first act, this becomes known to Manny. John proposes that perhaps he and Manny should give Gale a taste of her own medicine. Vera amuses herself by instigating a crying contest among the others. The winner gets to run away with her. Manny, the one who’s least interested in a rendezvous with Vera, nevertheless wins the prize.
Act 2. Winter has replaced summer. Adversity runs wild. Manny and Vera now live in a decrepit house in a small town. He’s almost deaf, she’s a mass of broken bones from a skiing accident. They have virtually nothing to eat or drink. But they’re lucky, compared to the severely afflicted Gale and John, who come calling.
Attitudes change along with the seasons, however. Vera, of all people, tries to rally the troops, to uncover a ray of hope. It’s a radical change in spirit, not explained in satisfying psychological terms, but Kondoleon isn’t interested in anything so realistic. He’s exploring a crazy universe. Sudden change is the only constant. The reactions of God, as well as these mortals, are unpredictable. Too bad the play’s final moment falls flat.
Bart DeLorenzo’s staging is crisp and well cast. Wilson’s modern Lady Sneerwell is a model of supercilious spitefulness, though she hasn’t quite mastered the room’s acoustics. Brown is bored to perfection, Orfanedes is woefully needy, and Glover plows on bravely through the war of words, seeking a moment of solace.
– Don Shirley